Losing teeth can happen even with the best dental care. Accidents like those in sports can knock teeth out and or teeth can be knocked loose from falls. Sometimes it is the lack of dental care or a lifetime of bad habits that lead to severe tooth decay that can lead to tooth loss.
Children ages three through 12 naturally lose teeth as their baby teeth get replaced with their permanent set. During these years, it can be difficult to conduct orthodontic work, especially braces. Tooth loss becomes a greater issue for teenagers and adults. Unlike children, when an adult loses a tooth, there isn’t one that can replace it.
No matter what the cause of tooth loss, there are multiple ways for teeth to be replaced. Adult dental care for missing teeth can be more difficult than that for children. Adults no longer have growing bones, have decades of damage done to their teeth and have slower recovery time from intense dental procedures.
Seniors often experience more loose or missing teeth as the bone structure in their jaws and their tooth enamel is weak and worn from prolonged use and exposure to harmful substances. Many seniors take medicine many of which create dry mouth as an adverse side effect. The dry mouth creates a more hospitable environment for plaque and bacteria. Seniors also have a harder time brushing and flossing their teeth to remove food debris.
What are the ways adults can take care of a mouth with missing teeth? The first, and most important step is to seek the help of a dentist. Leaving a gap where a tooth was can lead to other dental problems if it isn’t filled. Misaligned teeth, jaws and bite may result as can the increased risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
For adults with missing teeth, one or a combination of the following may be recommended:
Dental implants are used when there are one or two missing teeth. Titanium screws (or implants) are drilled into the jaw bone and act as artificial teeth roots. They are usually capped by a tooth-like porcelain crown. Implants can be used by themselves for isolated missing teeth or as anchors for removable full and partial dentures. Dental implants are permanent and go many years without needing to be replaced. Implants are not a good option for elderly patients as they require dense, strong, healthy gums and jaw bone tissue to be properly inserted into.
There are many types of dentures available. The different classes of dentures include full dentures and partial dentures. All dentures are removable and should be taken out at night and thoroughly cleaned.
Full dentures are recommended when all a patient’s natural teeth are gone. Dentures come in two sets, one for the top and the other for the bottom. The top portion attaches to the roof of the mouth while the lower portion is shaped like a horseshoe to accommodate the tongue.
Partial dentures are recommended when a patient has several missing teeth. Partial dentures are used when too many teeth are missing for implants. Partial dentures are held in place by clasps that are attached to neighboring teeth. The clasp has a hook that wraps around the outside of the teeth.
Overdentures are a variety of full dentures that use the roots of the remaining teeth as anchors. The preservation of the teeth roots is important in keeping the bone and gum structure intact and healthy.
Crowns are used at any age as coverings for dental implants or for weakened teeth. They protect the tooth underneath while giving the appearance that it is one of the patient’s natural teeth. Crowns can be made of different substances, but the most popular is porcelain. Costs and level of desired appearance and durability will dictate which material is right for the patient. Not all crowns are covered by dental insurance.
Bridges are fixed dentures that are recommended when only a few teeth are missing and the gums are healthy. Bridges are used most frequently when multiple teeth in the same area of the mouth are missing. Implants are also sometimes used if the anchor teeth are not strong enough. Crowns are made for the missing teeth and those crowns along with the anchor teeth or implants are cemented together to form a bridge.
At Madison Smile Solutions, our patients’ teeth, gums and smiles are important. If you have a missing tooth it is important to have it looked at right away. Contact us today and we’ll do all we can to bring out your best smile.