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David Matney DDS & Eric Arbuckle DDS
Ballston Dental Care

Best Ways to Replace Missing Teeth

replace missing teeth

Best Ways to Replace Missing Teeth

Missing one or more teeth in your mouth is a cause for concern among most people this day and age. You are aware of their importance when it comes to how your smile looks and the chewing abilities which they provide to you, but you might not know that replacing missing teeth can be mostly painless and restore your smile to what it once was. Millions of people need to replace missing teeth and it’s something that can be accomplished in as little as one office visit!

Replace Missing Teeth: What Are My Options?

There are three primary solutions to replace missing teeth, depending on your needs and wants. Most tooth replacement options will last you for years, although they can vary, so it’s important you understand your tooth replacement options prior to making any decisions.

  1. Dental Implants
  2. Removable Partial Dentures
  3. Fixed Bridges
dental implant tooth replacement
Using dental implants to replace missing teeth

Dental Implants

Dental implants, especially in Arlington, Virginia are becoming more and more common as the go-to solution to lost, or failing, teeth. Many people choose dental implants as their choice in tooth replacement because of how long they can last when properly maintained. Implants are comprised of a strong titanium material that eventually ‘attach’ to your jaw bone. Once integrated, a dental crown is placed on top, mimicking the look of real teeth and if done correctly, look identical to the tooth that you just lost!

Dental implants aren’t always the option for everyone when they decide to replace missing teeth in Arlington, Virginia. Due to implants requiring a minimally invasive surgery, patients should be in good overall health. It’s recommended that you have adequate bone to support the implant, or be open to having a bone grafting done to thicken your bone. If the implant begins to move, even the slightest bit, after placement, oftentimes they will fail so adequate bone is a necessity. Chronic illnesses such as diabetes, can slow the healing process as well, which may deter some people from choosing a dental implant as their tooth replacement option. Chemotherapy is another thing that might make an implant more difficult to place as it tends to weaken your bone cells, causing integration of that implant to not take place.

Our dentists here at Ballston Dental Care can help you in deciding whether an implant is the best route to go or if you should consider a different option to replace your missing tooth/teeth.

What’s Involved?

There are many different kinds of dental implants so the process can differ quite a bit. The most common situations, there are three steps to the implant process: Implant placement, the healing process, and the prosthesis. The implant is surgically placed into the jawbone. Once that takes place, we need to give the bone time to grab on and hold that implant in place. This can take a few months to complete, while other implants might be able to be finished on the same day. Once the implant is secured in the jaw bone, we create a prosthesis for you. A dental lab, or a Cerec machine, will custom-made a crown, bridge, or dentures to fasten to your implants and secure them in place.

Pro’s and Con’s of Dental Implants

There are many advantages to having dental implants. Implants are most likely to imitate what a natural tooth might look like. Oftentimes when shown a mouth that has an implant in it, most people can’t identify which tooth is the implant! Another benefit of dental implants is that there is no involvement with adjacent teeth. Other tooth replacement techniques, which we’ll go into below, involve adjusting adjacent teeth and with an implant, that is not necessary. By placing an implant in the jawbone, you will give the bone something to hold onto. When you lose a tooth, your bone will actually begin to dissolve away, which can be seen in older folks who lost many teeth and have that sunken look to their face.

The largest benefit to dental implants is the fact that many implants, when placed properly and maintained correctly, have the ability to last you your entire life. Other alternative tooth replacement options will result in follow up visits to replace broken prostheses, but with implants, they can last you forever!

There are a few disadvantages to implants though as well; nothing is perfect. Some people, due to their medical history, might not be candidates for receiving an implant. If you are undergoing chemotherapy, have diabetes or leukemia, or other systemic diseases, implants normally are not recommended. The process of placing an implant and waiting for the bone to adhere to it before attaching the prosthesis can also be seen as a downside. You may have to wear a “flipper” for a few months to wait for the implant to be stable.

The largest downside to implants is the upfront cost. Oftentimes, implants can be a bit more expensive than other routes, such as a bridge. But that value is seen in years to come. Although implants may cost more up front, if maintained properly, that implant can last you your entire life, as opposed to a bridge which will require maintenance down the road.

removable partial dentures
Using a removable partial denture to replace missing teeth

Removable Partial Dentures

A removable partial denture is exactly what the name describes: A partial (not full) denture that can be removed from the mouth for cleaning. Most partial dentures have replacement teeth, attached to a plastic base, that mimics the look of your natural gums. Some of these dentures have clasps which clip onto the adjacent teeth and help to keep them from moving.

What’s Involved?

The process of creating a partial denture is very different than that of placing a dental implant. Oftentimes, the patient will come into the office and have an impression made of their mouth. This impression helps the dental lab to create a denture that will comfortably fit your mouth. When the partial denture has been completed, the dentist will fit it in your mouth and adjust it slightly to ensure it is in line with your natural bite. This process does not take long and some offices can even produce these dentures same-day if they have a denture lab in-office.

Pro’s and Con’s of Removable Partial Dentures

The primary advantage to a removable partial denture is that it is removable. This can allow for the patient to remove them when they are not needed, which can allow for proper cleaning of your mouth with no obstructions. These partial dentures will also cost significantly less than other tooth replacement options.

The downside to this is that most removable partial dentures can crack, break, or get lost. All of these things can be worrisome for people and can’t be taken lightly. The need for repairs, multiple times in the future, may lead to a higher end-cost as well, when comparing the solution to dental implants and their life expectation. Partial dentures can also be embarrassing to some patients when having to remove their teeth for cleaning or might get embarrassed if the denture falls out during the day.

fixed bridge tooth replacement
Using a fixed bridge to replace missing teeth

Fixed Bridges

A more permanent way to replace missing teeth in Arlington, Virginia is a fixed bridge. These prostheses are actually permanently placed within the mouth and eliminate the need for removal, like what partial dentures require. A fixed bridge is normally cemented into place and is only ever removed by your dentist if it needs to be removed.

What’s Involved?

Although it’s possible for a fixed bridge to be placed in one office visit, more often than not, it will take 2-3 office visits to complete. During the first visit, the doctor will prep the teeth on either side of the missing tooth location, so the bridge can be attached. Once this is completed, the doctor will take impressions of your mouth and send that to the lab to fabricate the prosthesis. These labs can make fixed bridges out of numerous materials including glass-ceramics, metals, ceramics, or a combination of a few. Once the impression is completed, you will likely be fitted with a temporary bridge. A temporary bridge is fixed to the prepped teeth and cemented down using temporary bonding agents, until your final prosthesis is complete. You will then make another visit to the office to fit the fixed bridge and have it cemented in place.

Pro’s and Con’s of Fixed Bridges

An advantage of a fixed bridge is that they will actually look and feel like natural teeth. A fixed bridge also tends to cost less than a dental implant might in terms of up-front cost.

The downsides to a fixed bridge are that it’s very possible a bridge can crack or break. A bridge depends on the fixation points and if prepped teeth become compromised, larger issue could follow. Prepping the teeth properly likely won’t result in any issues but shaving down your enamel always runs a risk. Another downside is depending on how the fixed bridge sits in your mouth, it might be difficult for you to effectively clean underneath it.

Explore Your Options

Many people will go with the first suggestion made by a dental team. We urge you to look into all options out there in order to make an informed decision. While dental implants might be the best in terms of long-term satisfaction, it might not make sense for you to go that route, and instead choose another option. Either way, there are many solutions to replace missing teeth in Arlington, Virginia. Send us a message here at Ballston Dental Care and we can provide you some more information!

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