Have you lost a permanent tooth? If so, you are in good company. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, 69% of Americans aged 35 to 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth to an accident, tooth decay, gum disease or a failed root canal.
If you have lost one or more teeth as the result of an injury or periodontal disease, you may feel self-conscious about your smile. With modern technology there is no need to avoid smiling or cover your mouth when laughing. Today dental implants and fixed bridges are two of the most common treatment options for replacing missing teeth.
A fixed dental bridge is a non-removable prosthesis attached to remaining natural teeth. The false tooth or teeth literally bridge the gap between natural teeth. Bridges can improve chewing ability, pronunciation, aesthetics, and boost self-esteem. For a long time, fixed bridges were the best option for people who had lost teeth.
Unfortunately, bridges can also present some problems because the natural teeth that lie on either side of the bridge are filed down to accept the prosthetic. This step of the solution may make surrounding teeth prone to bacterial plaque accumulations, decay, periodontal disease, and the possibility of future root canals. Bridge-wearers must be careful to clean well under the appliance to avoid such complications. Recurrent decay, gum disease and wear and tear often doom fixed bridgework to early failure. For these reasons, fixed bridges usually need to be replaced every seven to 15 years.
If you are missing teeth and your gums and jaw are healthy, you may benefit from dental implants. Composed of titanium metal that “fuses” with the jawbone through a process called osseointegration, implants are surgically placed into the jawbone then topped with a natural white crown—so they look and feel like your real teeth. Two or more implants can easily serve as a base of support for several replacement teeth.
Because the dental implant fuses with the jawbone, the procedure actually helps prevent gum and bone deterioration, jawbone recession, and facial collapse. Better yet, dental implants can last for 20 years or more with proper oral hygiene.
In short, dental implants are revolutionizing lives by helping people rediscover the confidence to eat, speak, and laugh. Though implants cost a little more than bridges in the short run, people who opt for dental implants generally feel better, look better and live better in the long run.
Whether you and your health care provider decide on a fixed bridge or dental implants, rest assured there’s no need to go through life with missing teeth.