Replacing Missing Teeth
What happens to other teeth when one tooth is removed?
Teeth help us to chew and pronounce words. They also support one another. When we close our upper and lower teeth together our jaw muscles squeeze very tightly. When we slide our jaws from side to side, which can occur during chewing, our teeth place sideways stress on each other. The more teeth a person has the less stress that closing or sliding will place on each tooth. When a tooth is in contact with its neighbors, they help to absorb forces placed on it by food an opposing teeth. After a tooth is taken away closing pressure places more stress on each remaining tooth and sliding pressure can move other teeth into the empty space. The more a person chews or squeezes his teeth together the greater the chance a remaining tooth will get pushed out of alignment or fracture.
When a tooth opposes an empty space it can start to over-erupt and expose it roots. The outer shell of a root is composed of a weaker material than the outer shell of the crown. The root surface is more susceptible to penetration by cavity causing acids and likely to develop sensitivity to cold or sweet foods.
How can missing teeth be replaced?
Missing teeth can be replaced with removable dentures, fixed bridges or implant supported crowns. A removable denture can replace some or all of the missing teeth in the upper or lower arch. It can be removed and re-inserted. It may have clasps, which are arms that can wrap around some of the remaining natural teeth and enable the denture to hold more tightly in place. Removable dentures are usually less expensive than fixed bridges. However, they often contain metal of plastic parts that sit against the roof, cheeks or tongue areas and can reduce comfort and the sense of taste. They do not hold as tightly as fixed bridges and once removed they can become lost.
A removable full upper denture. The middle area holds onto the roof of the mouth.
A fixed bridge can replace some teeth by attaching it to nearby natural teeth using a special cement. It is not removable. However the outer shell of the neighboring anchor teeth needs to be shaved away so that the bridge sections that cover them can match the size and shape of the natural teeth. Removal of the outer shell, which is similar to peeling the skin off of an orange, can increase the chance that the anchor teeth will become more sensitive to cold or sweets and more likely to fracture.
A dental implant is a man-made tooth root that can anchor a crown (cap), bridge or removable denture. It can enable a missing tooth to be replaced without using or placing stress on the neighboring teeth. Implant supported crowns do not require meta or plastic parts to sit in other areas of the mouth so they are less likely than removable dentures and fixed bridges to affect comfort or taste. Implants are man-made tooth roots and thus can also anchor removable dentures and fixed bridges.
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A removable full lower denture. The denture is u-shaped.
Diagram showing an upper arch that’s missing one tooth and a partial upper denture designed to replace the tooth. The denture has two metal clasps and a plastic base that can sit behind the teeth.
A removable partial lower denture on a model of a lower jaw. The metal clasp increases the denture’s tightness. On the left of the clasp are the duplicates of natural teeth and on the right side are teeth that are part of the partial denture.
Model of an upper jaw that’s missing two front teeth. The outer shells of the two teeth on either side of the missing teeth have been shaved off. The bridge will have new outer covers for these teeth that will resemble the size and shape of the original teeth.
View of the bridge from the inside showing two solid teeth to replace the missing middle teeth and four shells to cover the anchor teeth. All six units are connected together.
The bridge seated on the four anchor teeth and replacing the two front teeth. The bridge consists of new outer covers for the four teeth that had been shaved down, and two replacements for the missing teeth.
Model of toothless lower arch with two dental implants. The silver implants can be hidden under the gums until the implant integrates with the jaw bone. Then the copper top can be placed above the gum level and connect the implant to a denture.
View of lower denture from the underside showing two connectors that can snap into the copper tops and enable the denture to tightly sit in place.