Replacing missing teeth is not simply a matter of restoring aesthetic appeal to your smile — filling gaps is also important to the overall health and function of both mouth and jaw. Here, experienced San Jose, Los Gatos and Campbell dentist Dr. Ashwini Bhave discusses the changes that occur when a tooth is lost, and outlines solutions for preserving the integrity of bone and your entire facial profile.
A missing tooth sets in motion a cascade of negative effects. When large gaps are allowed to persist in your mouth, remaining teeth can begin to drift, and your bite may also change. The bone that once anchored the teeth will begin to shrink and recede for many people, dramatically changing the facial profile.
Cheeks and lips may lack the support they need to look natural. You may experience temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD), and your friends and family may notice a difference in the way you speak. Missing teeth can even increase the likelihood you will develop cavities and gum disease.
Fortunately, there are proven technologies and procedures that can limit the consequences of missing teeth. Dentures are the oldest solution, and the least expensive. This cost savings comes at the expense of convenience and stability. Denture-wearers must limit the types of foods they are eating to prevent slippage, and a set of dentures requires special cleaning and maintenance. The biggest drawback is that although dentures stop teeth from drifting, they do not stimulate the bone in the jaw. Without this stimulation, the bone will atrophy.
Dental implants are the best overall solution to missing teeth. They look and feel like natural teeth and restore function, balance and beauty to your smile. Because each implant is rooted in the jaw with a titanium post, implants also provide the necessary bone stimulation to maintain the integrity of your jaw, as well as your natural facial profile.
A full or partial set of implants is possible in as few as three months. The first step is to surgically implant the titanium posts in the jaw, then allow time for the roots to fuse with the bone and for the jaw to heal. Once the posts are firmly in place, a natural-looking artificial tooth is attached to the top.
Patients may choose to replace one tooth or several teeth, or opt for a complete full-mouth restoration. Implants are especially useful for the lower jaw: While upper dentures cover the roof of the mouth, lower dentures leave space for the tongue, and as a result tend to be less stable.
To learn more about dental implants and other solutions to missing teeth, schedule an appointment with Dr. Bhave at her San Jose office by calling or emailing Bay Area Dental Specialists today.