As the 2 Works for You Dentist, Dr. Kevin Winters has answered many people’s questions about dental care. One question he addressed is what options a person has for replacing a missing tooth in the back of their mouth. There are really four tooth replacement options, but dental implants are the best.
Option 1: No Replacement
One approach to dealing with a missing tooth in the back of the mouth is to just not replace it. On the one hand, this might seem like a good idea, especially if you’re concerned about the cost of the dental care. However, not replacing missing teeth in the back of the mouth can have problems. Your teeth can begin to drift, causing them all to turn crooked and develop gaps. When teeth aren’t braced against one another, they have a greater risk of cracking. If you don’t replace a missing tooth, you are at a higher risk for losing another tooth.
Option 2: Partial Dentures
Partial dentures are the most basic tooth replacement. Although a denture can help keep your teeth from drifting, the denture likely won’t be functional for chewing and you’ll want to remove it for eating. A denture also can’t help support your bite, so it won’t do much for the risk of cracking a tooth.
The denture also secures against your natural teeth in ways that can actually damage those teeth with wear and accumulation of plaque related to securing clasps and hooks.
Option 3: Dental Bridge
A dental bridge is sometimes known as a fixed partial denture. That’s because it is like a denture that is bonded to your natural teeth by dental crowns. This means that a dental bridge is permanently fixed in your mouth–you don’t have to take it out for cleaning and it can be fully functional for chewing.
A dental bridge keeps teeth from drifting and can help protect teeth from chipping or cracking. But a bridge can also backfire. Because the bridge requires some of your natural tooth material to be removed, it can actually reduce the lifetime of supporting teeth. This is especially true for cantilever bridges, which are supported by a tooth on only one side.
Option 4: Dental Implants
Dental implants are fully functional replacements for teeth anywhere in the mouth, including the back. Dental implants have the potential to last for a lifetime. They look natural, and they completely support themselves–no involvement of other teeth.
This combination of benefits makes dental implants the best approach to replacing one or more missing teeth anywhere in the mouth.