People looking to replace missing teeth are well advised to do so in many cases. Of course, it’s always possible to leave a gap but leaving a gap after losing a tooth has a few problems.
Leaving a gap after losing a tooth
There are a couple of problems if you leave a gap:
- The teeth on the opposite arch will have a tendency to drift down into this space.
- The teeth either side of the gap will have a tendency to take into the gap.
- The bone where the tooth has been lost will have a tendency to resorb.
The image here shows this process in action. It is caused because your teeth are in fine balance with one another, the teeth on the opposing arch hold each other in position in a vertical direction and the teeth next to each other hold each other in a horizontal direction.
Your tongue and cheek also hold the teeth into position and prevent drifting inwards or outwards. This fine balance of the position of your teeth and your mouth is known as the neutral zone and if this neutral zone is affected by the lack of force from either your tongue, cheek, opposing to or adjacent teeth then teeth will have a tendency to drift.
Think about some people with teeth that stick out at the top, this can be caused by tongue thrusting as the tongue pushes forwards it also pushes the teeth out.
This tooth movement creates cosmetic problems. Take a look at the image above, the truth that has drifted has changed the gum architecture on the upper teeth. This can have a cosmetic impact and affect your smile making it look more gummy.
When the adjacent teeth drift the gap has a tendency to be closed. This impacts your ability to replace that missing tooth in the future as the teeth either side may not be in the correct position to facilitate the placement of a new replacement tooth.
When it comes to replacing missing teeth you have three primary options:
The cost of replacing missing teeth.
The cost of replacing missing teeth will vary considerably depending upon your clinical situation, the type of restoration you have and the dentist that you visit.
You would typically look at anything from £300 a denture up to £3000 for a dental implant.
Dentures, although much cheaper will need constant attention to ensure they fit (your gums will change shape over the years) you may also find that you cannot eat as well as you like and many people dislike taking them out at night. Dentures also do not support the underlying bone from where the tooth has come out, this can result in bone loss.
Dental bridges are more expensive but are fixed and should enable you to eat any food you wish. They don’t however support the bone where the teeth has been removed which can result in bone loss.
Dental implants on the other hand are a permanent replacement for missing teeth. You should be able to eat any food you like and they will support the underlying bone to prevent bone loss. Considering all the advantages that dental implants offer and the length of time they should last it makes them actually the most cost effective treatment when considered over a lifetime.