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A missing front tooth can be very traumatic. Not only are your looks affected but, as a result, your self-esteem can plummet and make you avoid work or socialising. Additionally it can present difficulties with chewing and speaking, as well as smiling.
The good news is that, with modern dentistry, great replacement options are available and nobody need ever know that you were missing your front tooth. You can visit your dentist or prosthodontist (a specialist in prosthetic teeth) and leave the practice the same day with a temporary replacement.
The permanent replacement options are:
Your health condition, budget and oral hygiene may influence which option is best for you. However, whatever your preference is, the first step is a consultation with a dentist or prosthodontist who will examine your teeth and gums, assess your medical and dental history and take radiographic imaging to determine how much bone you have in the region. They can then suggest the best options for you.
Missing Front Tooth Replacement Options
Dental implants are the closest thing to your natural tooth. They look and feel like the real thing and, with good oral hygiene, they can last a lifetime. Dental implants act like your natural tooth root and support an implant crown which is screwed onto the implant.
The implant is inserted into the bone under your gum and its biomechanical qualities mean that it integrates with your natural bone. The placing of a dental implant can be done with local anaesthetic in-chair or under general anaesthetic in hospital but is a relatively straightforward procedure and usually causes no more discomfort than an extraction. During the healing period of approximately three months, your dentist or prosthodontist will issue you with a temporary tooth that will not overload your implant while it is healing. After this time your dentist will assess how well it has integrated with your bone and, if satisfied, impressions will be taken to fabricate your permanent implant crown.
A bridge spans the gap where your missing tooth is. A false tooth, or ‘pontic’ is attached to the adjacent teeth which are known as the abutment teeth. There are three types of bridge, a conventional bridge, a Maryland or resin bonded bridge or a cantilever bridge but the most commonly used is the conventional bridge as it is stronger. Bridges are commonly used to replace one or more missing teeth as they can be accurately matched to your natural teeth and will make eating and speaking easier. The advantage of a bridge is that it can usually be completed over two visits and is a more budget-conscious option than dental implants. Bridges function like natural teeth and with good oral care your bridge can last ten years or more. The main disadvantage of a conventional bridge is that, as the abutment teeth need to be prepared for supporting the false tooth, healthy tooth structure has to be sacrificed on those teeth. There is also a small risk of nerve damage. Your dentist will again advise which option is best for you.
A denture is a removable dental prosthesis. It must be removed for cleaning and while sleeping. It can be used to replace just one or a few teeth, a ‘partial denture’, or a full jaw of missing teeth, a ‘full denture.’ The main advantage of a partial denture to replace a front tooth is cost versus an implant or a bridge. However the disadvantages of a denture are discomfort, sometimes with slipping or moving, and its life expectancy which is only 5-8 years as the gums and bone continue to shrink with a denture, gums can be damaged and the denture must be relined every so often as this happens.
While these are a brief outline of the options for replacing a missing tooth, you should consult a dentist or prosthodontist as soon as possible after tooth loss to assess which options are available to you and get ready to smile again!