Single tooth replacement: What are my options?

Charlottesville patients who are missing teeth often want to address the problem as soon as possible, and understandably so. A missing tooth not only affects a person’s speech and ability to chew, but it also brings down self-esteem as a side effect of a less-than-perfect smile.

Patients who need to replace a single tooth have a number of choices. One technique is the dental implant. With their ability to approximate the form and function of biological teeth, dental implants are becoming an increasingly popular tooth replacement method.

Dental implants are small titanium screw-like structures that are surgically placed in the jaw bone by an oral surgeon. The titanium is biocompatible, which allows it to fuse with the bone. This process, known as osseointegration, helps to make the dental implant stable and strong.

A small metal post sits atop the implant, holding the artificial crown portion of the tooth replacement in place.

A fixed permanent bridge is an alternative device for replacing a single tooth. In a fixed permanent bridge, an artificial tooth is attached to crowns on the adjoining teeth on either side of the gap. A removable single-tooth partial, also known as a “flipper,” also can be used in single tooth replacement, but these appliances are not intended to be long-term solutions.

Dental implants have a number of advantages over other tooth replacement techniques. Most importantly, dental implants prevent the erosion of the jaw bone that can occur when a tooth has been lost. A tooth’s root helps to hold the jaw bone in place, but when the root is not replaced along with the crown—as in a bridge—the bone will erode. This can jeopardize the stability of neighboring teeth.

Furthermore, it’s easier to keep the mouth clean with dental implants. Bridges limit access to the gumline, and flossing becomes quite a chore, requiring a threader and a great deal of patience. Alternatively, patients with dental implants can brush and floss normally.

When considering a single tooth replacement, research and compare all of your options before you make a final decision. It’s important to consider durability, function and convenience when choosing a method.

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