Implant versus bridge versus denture

I don’t want a fake tooth!!
Whew! We’re explaining a lot today so hold tight!! When you’re missing a tooth, you have many options to replace it. One option is to leave the space as is. The downside to this, besides cosmetic concerns, is that adjacent teeth will move into this side… Usually by tilting into the space, which can mess up your bite. Also, the opposing tooth likes to have something touching it when you bite, so that tooth will appear to “stretch” into that hole, compromising that tooth as well!
A second option is a denture. A denture can come in two forms, replacing all of your teeth in one arch (upper or lower) is called a full denture. A full denture relies only on the soft tissue and muscles to hold it in place. An upper full denture uses the palate to form a seal and can have much better retention than the lower. The lower full denture sits on top of the ridge and usually moves quite a bit with tongue movement… Think, eating or talking. A denture replacing one or a few teeth is called a partial denture. A temporary partial denture is commonly called a flipper… Not the dolphin!! A partial denture relies on the adjacent teeth to hold it in place using clasps for retention. Most all dentures, full or partial, have to be removed for 6-8 hours a day, recommended while sleeping, to let the gum tissue rest and recover. (Think shriveled fingers after a day of swimming!) Full or partial dentures can also get added retention by attaching them to dental implants.
A third option is a bridge. A bridge is a multiple-unit crown that attaches on one or both sides to natural teeth or implants. (Dr Macalik doesn’t recommend attaching bridges using both implants and teeth in one bridge). A bridge attached on one side is called a cantilever bridge and is only recommended in certain instances. The downside of using a bridge to replace a missing space is that at least one tooth, usually two, have to be reduced in size for the bridge to be placed. The average lifespan of a bridge is 3-5 years due to the connected teeth not being properly cleaned and developing decay under the bridge. A cantilever acts just as that: a lever, which can add additional forces to the tooth which can compromise it’s bone support.
The best option, if you’re a candidate for it, is an implant. An implant is an artificial tooth root that goes into the bone and fuses to the surrounding bone. It forms, fits, feels, functions, and flosses just like a natural tooth. When the implant is ready to be restored (after it’s healed), an impression is taken to make a custom fit connector (abutment) and a crown. As the implant is healing there are two temporary options used solely for cosmetic reasons: a temporary abutment or a flipper. A flipper, as we mentioned earlier, is a removable partial denture used to replace missing teeth temporarily. A temporary abutment is actually attached to the implant, but not put in function to reduce the strain and stress on the implant while healing.
There are lots of factors that come into play when considering which option is right for you. Dr Macalik firmly believes you should be fully informed about all your options. Please call today if you have more questions or to set up a consult to figure out what’s right for you!!


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