When an individual is missing one or more teeth, tooth replacement can be undertaken by a dentist. Tooth replacement may be both functional and aesthetic. Obviously the gap left behind by the missing teeth affects a person’s appearance and, consequently, their self-confidence, so replacing the teeth in one way or another can prevent an individual from feeling uncomfortable and allow them to be happy with their appearance.
Not only does replacing one with temporary tooth or more missing teeth improve the appearance of the smile, it prevents further aesthetic problems from occurring. For example, where there is a gap in the teeth, neighbouring teeth often grow sideways into the gap, creating other gaps elsewhere and leaving teeth more open to the risk of decay. When replacement teeth restore the ability to chew as well, it is easy to understand why they are functional as well as aesthetic.
Tooth replacement may take the form of a crown, bridge, denture or implant. The appropriate option will depend on the individual patient and the dentist should be able to explain why he or she has chosen one option over another. The number of teeth missing, location of missing teeth and general health of the patient are the main factors a dentist will take into consideration.
Bridges are used when one or more teeth in a row are missing and can be used providing that there are healthy teeth on either side of the gap. The healthy teeth are filed down and an impression taken, from which two crowns are made. The crowns are joined together by further false teeth to create a “bridge” and the bridge is cemented in place. A crown works in a similar way, but is cemented in place over just one damaged tooth.
Alternatively, a bridge or a crown may be held in place using a dental implant rather than cement. An implant is simply a narrow titanium screw shaped rod which is drilled directly into the jaw under local anaesthetic. The rod then acts as an anchor for crowns and bridges. Most dentists consider implants to be the best tooth replacement option in terms of being function and aesthetic. They allow normal chewing function to be resumed and they are long lasting. However, they are not suitable for everyone: few dentists will place them in smokers and they cannot be placed in teenagers who are still growing. They also require a good amount of healthy bone in the jaw area, as this is necessary for the implant to be successful.
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