If you’re missing a tooth, you’re in good company. According to the American Dental Association, about half of Americans (178 million people) are missing at least one tooth. If that situation just occurred, such as tripping and knocking out a tooth, you have about two hours to potentially save the tooth. Or maybe a tooth has so much decay it cannot be saved. Whatever your reasons, you’re missing a tooth.
It’s a bad idea to leave the gap in your smile for reasons we’ll get to in a minute. So how should you replace that tooth? There are really two options, a dental bridge or a dental implant.
Let’s get into these options for replacing a missing tooth and giving you back a complete smile at Drs of Smiles.
You’ve knocked out a tooth, now what?
When you have a tooth knocked out in an accident, there are steps you can take to make tooth reimplanting by the dentist easier and more successful. If a tooth is knocked out, rinse it off with cool water only using no soaps or disinfectants and place it back in the socket and immediately call and come see one of our Mesa, Arizona dentists – as soon as possible.
If you are unable to get the tooth back in the socket where it came out of then you must get to the dentist within two hours or reimplanting the tooth does not work. Keep the tooth moist in cool water or milk until you are able to come to our office. This will help preserve the tooth and may allow one of our Mesa dentists to affix or splint your natural tooth to adjacent teeth.
Why should I replace my missing teeth?
People think missing teeth are simply a cosmetic issue, and if the missing tooth isn’t in an obvious location, they often opt to not replace the tooth or teeth. Beyond the cosmetic issues of a gap in your teeth, there are dental problems:
- The teeth surrounding the missing tooth or teeth no longer have pressure on them to stay in place, so they slide over into the gap. This movement can change your bite and overall alignment.
- When you chew or bite, a good deal of force in involved. The tooth takes this energy and transfers it down the tooth into the jawbone beneath. This energy signals the jawbone to build new bone mass, keeping it healthy. When a tooth is missing, that energy doesn’t enter the jawbone and it begins to deteriorate. Over time, this leads to a sunken appearance in the area as the jawbone collapses inward.
- A missing molar can keep a person from eating certain foods, due to the difficulty in chewing them. This can lead to nutritional issues.
- Missing teeth can create whistling sounds when speaking.
When Tooth Preservation is not Possible
Whether your tooth has been knocked out or gone missing for another reason and cannot be reimplanted, one of our Mesa dentists will be able to help you plan a replacement for your tooth with many convenient options.
Options offered by our dentists include:
- Removable appliances called partial dentures
Both dental bridges and dental implants can now be made using a porcelain crown, a gold crown, or zirconia crown these are all known as dental crowns, to replace your missing tooth.
The new BruxZir crowns and bridges made from zirconia are available to replace gold for heavy bites and patients that grind their teeth. They do not chip as the porcelain can. And they look and function great.
What is a dental bridge?
Also known as a partial denture, a bridge is a dental prosthetic that “bridges” the gap of your missing tooth/teeth. The bridge consists of crowns on the healthy teeth on each side of the gap (these are also called the abutment teeth). Between the crowns is an artificial tooth or teeth (called pontics) that replace the missing teeth. Bridges are anchored by the healthy abutment teeth or by dental implants.
At Drs of Smiles, we prefer porcelain or zirconia for the crowns and artificial teeth because these materials closely mimic the translucence and light reflection of natural tooth enamel.
What’s the process of getting a dental bridge?
Receiving a bridge at Drs of Smiles involves two office visits. During your first appointment, we prepare the abutment teeth for their crowns. First, we need to make room for the crowns, so a portion of the enamel is shaved off the healthy teeth on all sides and the top. The crowns will completely cover the natural teeth down to the gumline. We then take impressions and photos of your teeth to send to the dental lab to use when fabricating your bridge. While we are awaiting your bridge, we place a temporary bridge that we make in-house also using your impressions.
Once your bridge is finished, you return for your second appointment. We check its fit and color match with your natural teeth. We adjust the fit as needed. If you desire, we can place the bridge with temporary cement so that you can try out the fit for a day or two at home. Once satisfied, your bridge is permanently cemented onto your abutment teeth and you’re finished.
How long does a dental bridge procedure take?
It takes two appointments for Dr. LeSueur or Dr. Dodaro to place a bridge. As described above, the first appointment is used to prepare the two abutment teeth for their crowns and to take impressions to make the bridge. This usually takes about one hour unless there are any more involved problems.
Your second appointment can take as little as 30 minutes.
How long will a dental bridge last?
Dental bridges have a varying lifespan from five to 15 years, but they can last longer. The health of the abutment teeth is usually the determinant. With good home hygiene, bridges can last a long time.
“Dr. LeSueur and Staff, The minute I walked into your office as a patient was probably the best day for my teeth. Dr. LeSueur, with your artistry and talent, you made my mouth beautiful. I will be forever grateful to all of you. Sincerely, L.W. Scottsdale.”
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a prosthetic replacement for a missing tooth or a tooth that needs extraction. An implant consists of three parts: the implant, the post, and a crown/artificial tooth. The titanium implant is placed down into the socket formerly occupied by the tooth root. The jawbone then grows around the implant, making it a part of the jaw. A post is then attached to the implant and an artificial tooth is attached to the post. Because the implant is fully anchored into the jawbone, a dental implant feels and functions just like a natural tooth.
How are implants placed?
Not everyone can have a dental implant, at least not immediately. If a person has been missing a tooth or teeth for some time, the jawbone below the gap may have resorbed to the point that there isn’t enough bone mass to safely hold the implant. In that case, the jawbone will need to be built back up with bone grafts before an implant can be placed. Otherwise, just about any adult of any age can have an implant.
The implant process involves four distinct steps:
- Implant placement — We inject some local anesthetic around your missing tooth. Then Dr. LeSueur or Dr. Dodaro exposes the jawbone. If needed, a tiny hole is drilled into the socket that held the former tooth root. Now the titanium implant is screwed down into the socket.
- Osseointegration — The second step is what separates implants from other replacement options. Once the implant is placed, the jawbone is allowed to grow around the implant, making it part of the jaw. This process, called osseointegration, takes from three to six months.
- Attaching the post — Once your jawbone has adopted the implant you return and we attach a post, called an abutment, to the implant. Now it’s time for your gums to heal for approximately six more weeks.
- Attaching the false tooth — When your gums have healed, you’re ready to have the crown (false tooth) attached to the post. We use porcelain or zirconia crowns at our Mesa practice, so it will beautifully match your surrounding teeth and provide unparalleled strength and durability. Once we attach the crown, you can go out and immediately enjoy your new tooth.
How long do dental implants last?
Dental implants often last the remainder of the patient’s life. Once the implant base becomes part of the jawbone, it’s not going anywhere. If something happens to the crown/artificial tooth attached to the implant base, a new tooth can easily be made.
Is one tooth replacement option better than the other?
At Drs of Smiles, we’re big fans of dental implants for tooth replacement. Once placed, a dental implant behaves exactly like a natural tooth. The patient can eat any foods without worrying about the bite strength. Bite force transfers down into the jawbone, as it does with a natural tooth.
This doesn’t happen with a bridge. Plus, when placing a bridge, the teeth on both sides of the missing tooth or teeth need to have crowns placed atop them to anchor the bridge. This involves shaving down some of the healthy top portions of the teeth to make room for the crowns. In contrast, implants don’t affect the adjacent teeth at all.
Emergency Dental Care
Replacing missing teeth is important for both the appearance and function of your smile. Offering emergency dentistry to help immediately reimplant teeth or to replace missing teeth as soon as possible enables our Mesa dentists to help keep your smile strong and healthy and beautiful for years to come.
We are open 6 days a week, Monday through Saturday, with a doctor on call for after-hour emergencies