Missing teeth are more common than you might think. According to the CDC, among adults from 35-44, 69% have lost at least one permanent tooth to decay. By age 50, they’ve lost an average of 12 teeth (including wisdom teeth). And in the 65-74 age group, 26% have lost all their teeth.
That’s a lot of teeth missing, and a lot of teeth that need replacing. There are a number of different options out there, so which is best for you to choose?
At Bucktown Wicker Park Dental, Dr. Melissa Daza and Dr. Michelle Schwartz offer both dental implants and full or partial dentures to fill in the gaps left by missing teeth. Neither solution is right for every person, but every person can find a solution that meets their needs. Here’s what you need to know.
What are dentures?
Dentures are removable dental appliances used to replace just a few or a whole mouthful of missing teeth. There are two types:
1. Removable complete dentures
This type of denture replaces an entire arch (or both arches) of teeth. First, we extract any remaining teeth, and then you wait about 6-8 months for your mouth to heal and your jawbone to reshape to accommodate the new structure. We then take a mold of your mouth, from which the artificial teeth are made.
The denture sits on top of the gums where the teeth used to be. Many people use a temporary dental adhesive to attach it to the gums so it doesn’t move around when they eat, speak, or even cough. But the appliance can be uncomfortable, affect your ability to experience the full taste of food, and cause sore gums, even with the adhesive.
You do need to remove the denture regularly for cleaning, after which you can just pop it back in your mouth. Dentures last an average of 7-15 years, after which you’ll need to have a new set made. The initial cost is far less than alternatives like dental implants, but since dentures need to be replaced, they may turn out to be more expensive in the long run.
As with any removable appliance, the bone underlying the missing teeth does not receive stimulation, and it may deteriorate over time. That can permanently change your facial appearance.
2. Removable partial dentures
Unlike bridges, which require the dentist to grind down adjacent teeth to attach and support the appliance, partial dentures don’t require any such modifications. This set of artificial teeth is bonded to a metal structure that can be removed for easy cleaning. Like full dentures, though, they can slip around when you eat or talk, chafing the gums.
Removable partial dentures are a good, relatively inexpensive solution when you have just a few teeth missing, but they don’t function as well as implant-supported crowns. The bone underlying the missing teeth can also deteriorate over time.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are also artificial teeth, but they’re permanently fixed in your mouth. They’re the closest you can get to how a natural tooth feels and looks, and they’re the only restoration option that preserves your natural bone. Because they’re fused to the bone and support a chewing surface on the crown above, they actually help stimulate bone growth.
The American Academy of Implant Dentistry estimates that 3 million people in the US currently have implants, and that's growing by 500,000 people annually.
Dental implants are a good choice when you have one or a few missing teeth, although new technologies, such as the All-on-4® implants, allow for multiple teeth to be implanted at one time.
The implants use a titanium screw, attached to your jawbone, as an artificial tooth. After we place the screw, you have to allow 6-8 months for the screw to fully fuse with the bone. Then, we attach a connector known as an abutment, which becomes the base to support an artificial crown that looks and acts like your natural tooth.
Dental implants are a more costly endeavor than either type of denture, but they’re permanent and won’t need to be replaced. You brush and floss them just like you would your original teeth.
The bottom line
Which option you choose to replace your teeth depends on a number of factors that include the number of teeth, cost, appearance, and stability. Your best bet is to schedule a consultation with Dr. Daza or Dr. Schwartz and get an expert’s input on what’s best for your mouth. You can reach our office by calling 773-252-2303, or by scheduling online. We’re here to help give you the healthiest mouth possible.