Teeth are an incredibly strong and important part of the human body. Losing a tooth can be a traumatic experience but the good news is that there are many different ways to replace your natural teeth.
By age 50, the majority of adults are missing at least one tooth. It is incredibly common and you should not feel ashamed by missing teeth. In some cases, patients with a condition called hypodontia are even born missing one or more teeth.
If you are looking into tooth replacement options, you may be wondering what the advantages and disadvantages of replacing natural teeth are. Let’s explore the reasons patients replace missing teeth and weigh the pros and cons.
Common Causes of Tooth Loss
Tooth loss can happen to anyone. A great way to prevent tooth loss is to consistently take good care of your teeth and visit your dentist. Nevertheless, accidents happen and tooth loss can occur for a variety of reasons.
Illness or Infection
Illnesses such as root canals, periodontal disease (gum disease) and even certain nutrient deficiencies can cause tooth loss. If you experience pain, swelling, bleeding or redness in your mouth or gums, visit your dentist immediately. Most illnesses can be prevented with proper care, and fast dental care can potentially save your natural tooth in some cases. Yet infections are one of the leading causes of tooth loss in North America.
Chips or Cracks
Depending on the extent of the chip or crack, your tooth may need to be removed. As a rule of thumb, if the crack extends below the gum line, or into the root of the tooth, it’s likely the tooth will have to be pulled. If it is a simple surface level chip, you may be able to save and preserve the natural tooth with a dental crown or bonding to fill the chip and protect the tooth.
Accidents or Trauma
Accidents such as motor vehicle crashes, athletic injuries or even trips and falls can cause tooth loss. Tooth loss from accidents can be rather traumatic as they often happen suddenly and without warning. It is unfortunate when this occurs but in most cases the damage can be repaired with tooth replacement options.
Why Choose to Replace Natural Teeth?
Missing teeth can affect you physically and mentally. Here are some of the common reasons patients choose to replace their natural teeth.
Prevent Bone Loss
If you have been missing teeth for over a year, there is a chance you have started to experience bone loss in your jaw. Once it starts, jaw bone loss cannot be reversed naturally and will require dental intervention.
Bone loss happens when the natural tooth and tooth root are missing and there is no weight or pressure on the jaw. The human body is incredibly efficient and if there is a portion of the jaw that is not in use, it will start to degrade and weaken in the area where you are missing a tooth.
The weight and pressure of your natural teeth keep your jaw bone strong – when they are missing it weakens and becomes thinner. Patients with missing teeth and jaw bone loss may notice a gaunt facial appearance, as the bone becomes thin and more fragile. Tooth replacement options such as dental implants and dental bridges can prevent this problem from worsening, but often bone grafting is required before tooth placement.
If you have ever had braces or Invisalign, you will understand first hand that your teeth can shift in your mouth. These orthodontic options move your teeth into alignment, but if you are not vigilant and do not wear your retainer for maintenance, they can also shift back out of alignment.
The same thing can happen when you are missing teeth. Even missing a single tooth can cause your teeth to start shifting out of place. When you are missing teeth, there is more space in your mouth and your teeth can spread out as a result. Teeth that do not have an opposing tooth will passively erupt until they come into contact with something else, and in some cases it is literally the opposing gum tissue. Often before it even gets this severe other problems develop that cause this over erupted tooth to be lost.
Teeth on either side of the empty space will tend to drift and tip into the space, causing issues with the bite, food impaction and potentially further tooth loss. So although we can lose one or two teeth and still function reasonably well (and therefore decide not to bother replacing the missing tooth) in the long term it could lead to more serious problems and also more costly solutions.
Lastly the shifting of teeth can cause unwanted gaps in your smile which can be an aesthetic issue if and when the front teeth are affected.
A Better Quality Of Life
The psychological and physical aspects of missing teeth can dramatically affect your daily life.
Missing teeth make it more difficult to bite, chew and break down your food. Patients who are missing all or most of their teeth face are often forced to limit the types of foods they eat which may very well affect their overall nutrition and general health.
Psychologically, patients with missing teeth may avoid certain social situations or avoid smiling in person and in photos. Missing teeth in certain areas of the mouth can also cause speech impediments and patients may feel self conscious when trying to pronounce certain words.
Therefore there are many good reasons to consider replacing your missing teeth. If your are missing teeth, speak to your dentist to inform you of potential problems that may develop and solutions to prevent further problems, some of which you can read about below:
Your Tooth Replacement Options
There are many different options for patients who are looking to replace missing teeth. At times, the choices may seem overwhelming. The best way to determine the right tooth replacement option for your situation is to visit your dentist for a personalized consultation.
Dental implants are often described as the best replacement option for missing teeth. This is because dental implants replicate the natural root of your tooth. These metal implants are placed in your jaw bone, and are able to secure a prosthetic tooth that screws in on top of the metal root. Implants accurately replicate the tooth and root in your mouth. They look realistic and are incredibly long-lasting and effective when it comes to restoring your ability to eat and bite.
Bridges are similar to dental implants, however they are less invasive in that there is no surgical step. While dental implants require a metal tooth root in your jaw for stability, dental bridges are supported by neighboring teeth in your mouth. Bridges are ideal for patients who are missing one or more teeth in a row. They work by placing a prosthetic denture in between two natural teeth. These neighboring teeth are fitted to a special crown and hold the bridge in place.
Dentures are often the “fastest” and least expensive way to quickly replace a full mouth of teeth. Dentures are cost effective and can be custom fitted to your mouth. At VCCID we have an in-house denturist who can assist with fitting, molding and creating custom sets of dentures for your needs. Dentures are held in place mostly by a mild suction between the tissues and the denture, although people who have experienced considerable bone and gum shrinkage (due to tooth loss) will often need the help of a denture glue. They are the least invasive tooth replacement option available. They are not permanent however, and must be removed nightly before bed.
Implant Supported Dentures
Implant supported dentures, also known as snap-in dentures or overdentures are a hybrid tooth replacement option for patients. These prosthetics give the full coverage tooth replacement you would expect from a denture, with the permanence and stability of dental implants.
These are excellent options for those who are looking to replace their dentures. Implant-supported dentures require the placement of 4-6 implants per jaw. These then support the denture prosthetic which is screwed in place on top. Patients can replace an entire mouth of teeth effectively with this option.
Advantages of Replacing Natural Teeth
Now that we have explored how and why people replace their natural teeth, we can learn more about the benefits of doing so.
Teeth are replaced most often in order to restore your ability to eat, chew and speak. This is the core function of the teeth and many patients find replacement greatly beneficial. They can eat the foods they want again without worry or restriction.
Likewise, replacing natural teeth also helps to restore your self confidence. You will no longer feel like you have to hide your smile. It can also restore your ability to speak without impediments. The restorative benefits that come with tooth replacement are remarkable and they can greatly improve your quality of life.
Prevents Future Problems
Additionally, replacing natural teeth can prevent future oral health problems. Replacing missing teeth early can prevent jaw bone degradation. It can also keep your teeth from shifting out of place.
Pros of Tooth Replacement
- Prevents jaw bone loss
- Restore functions such as eating, biting and speaking
- Improve self esteem
- Prevents shifting teeth
- Permanent or semi-permanent
- Long lasting
Disadvantages of Replacing Natural Teeth
As with everything, there are potential cons to replacing natural teeth. These should not keep you from seeking tooth replacement options, however, they are important to be aware of.
Some tooth replacement options, such as implants and implant supported dentures do require surgery to place the metal implants. In some cases where a patient is missing jaw bone tissue, a preliminary surgery is done to replace the bone before the implant can be placed. Implant placement surgery is performed in-house at VCCID and Dr. Balogh has over 30 years of experience performing these procedures. Nevertheless, there are less invasive tooth replacement options available for those who may not be able to have invasive procedures.
It Can be Costly
Depending on the treatment you choose, the cost of tooth replacement can be a barrier for patients. The cost of dental implants can vary from being around $4500 – $20,000. Dentures are a more affordable option for patients, with costs ranging from around $1000 – $3000. Dental bridges sit in the mid-range with the prices running at between $3000 – $5000. Talk with your dentist about payment options and plans as there are options available. Your dentist may also be able to refer you to a dental school, where treatments are discounted in some circumstances.
Cons of Tooth Replacement
- It can be costly
- It may take some time to heal
- Requires dental surgery (implants)
The decision to replace your natural teeth is a very important one. It is best to consider all of your options and talk with your dentist about what solution is best for you. The key benefit to replacing your natural teeth is a restored quality of life. You can smile, laugh, eat, and speak like you used to, before tooth loss. There are some drawbacks, but a good dentist will be able to create a treatment plan that fits your goals and needs.
Visit VCCID for a Consultation
At VCCID our dedicated team of staff are committed to your overall oral health. Whether you are simply assessing your options, or you want to start the process of replacing your natural teeth, a consultation is the best next step. Dr. Balogh can help to answer any questions you have about the process and our convenient location in Metrotown, Burnaby makes us easily accessible by public or private transport.
Ultimately, the decision to replace your teeth is up to you, but we are here to help every step of the way. Click to book a consultation, we look forward to meeting you.