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Many people have a missing tooth or teeth. According to a 2015 survey by the CDC, only 48% of adults living in the U.S. between the ages of 20 and 64 have a full set of permanent teeth.1 And nearly 19% of adults living in the US aged 65 or older don’t have any teeth at all.
The most common causes of tooth loss are tooth decay, gum disease, medical problems, and trauma.2
There are several ways to replace missing teeth. The type of tooth replacement option that is best for you depends on several factors, like your overall health and how much healthy jawbone you have.
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that’s inserted into the jaw. The implant is a small titanium post that is surgically placed into the jaw bone. After integration, a crown is placed on top of the implant.4
Not everyone is a good candidate for a dental implant. But you may qualify to get one if you:
If you don’t meet these criteria, your dentist or surgeon will likely recommend alternatives.
There are two primary types of implants:
These implants have screws, blades, or cylinders that are surgically inserted into the jaw bone. Every implant can hold one or several replacement teeth.
Endosteal implants are best suited for people currently wearing bridges or removable dentures. You may not be a good candidate for endosteal implants if you don’t have enough jaw bone intact.
These implants sit on top of the jaw bone. They use a metal framework to hold the implant in place on the gum tissue.
Most people get subperiosteal implants if they can’t wear normal dentures. You may also get this type of implant if you don’t have enough bone to hold an endosteal implant.
Like any dental procedure, getting an implant has pros and cons.5
Dental implants can be beneficial because they:
The major drawback of dental implants is that they require at least one surgery. As a result, the risks of dental implants include all of those associated with surgery: infection, pain, and bleeding, among others.
Dental implants may also be more expensive than dentures or bridges. You’ll also have to keep artificial implanted teeth extremely clean and visit the dentist regularly to make sure they stay healthy.
Dentures are removable prostheses to replace missing teeth. If someone is missing all their teeth, they’ll need to wear complete dentures. You may be able to wear partial dentures if you’re not missing all your teeth.6
Most complete dentures consist of pink, gum-colored plastic with artificial white teeth. Some partial dentures also have a metal framework that helps hold the partial in place by clasping onto the natural teeth. You normally don’t wear complete dentures or partial dentures while you’re sleeping.
Pros of dentures include:
Cons of dentures include:
Unlike with dentures, you cannot remove bridges, and you’ll need to use special products to keep them clean. They are less natural in appearance and feel than dental implants, but you may need to get a bridge or bridges if you don’t have enough intact jawbone to place implants.
Having dental bridges has pros and cons.
Pros of bridges include:
Cons of bridges include:
According to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), missing teeth can cause several negative side effects.3
Risks of having missing teeth include:
The best way to keep your teeth healthy is to practice good dental hygiene. For healthy teeth and gums, the ADA recommends:
Having a missing tooth or missing teeth can make you feel less confident about your smile. Missing teeth can also cause the face to sag and the jawbone to shrink over time. Chewing and talking can also be difficult with missing teeth.
The best way to replace missing teeth is to get a dental implant. But if you’re not a good candidate to receive dental implants, you could consider getting a bridge or dentures.
With proper at-home and in-office dental care, most dental implants, bridges, and dentures will last for years, even decades. Your dentist or surgeon will determine which treatment option for missing teeth will work best for you.
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