Missing teeth are often fodder for standup comics or funny stories told around the kitchen table at family gatherings. But missing teeth aren’t all that rare. In fact, an estimated 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth, and about 40 million Americans don’t have any teeth at all.
If you get involved in an accident or suffer from tooth decay or gum disease that results in tooth loss, you could be the one they’re talking about in those missing tooth stories, but humor will be the last thing on your mind. Top of mind will be, “Now what?”
Don’t worry. You have a variety of treatment options, says Dr. Meriem Boukadoum, here at 54th Street Dental. Let’s unpack two popular treatments for missing teeth — dental implants and bridges.
Let’s start by defining implants and bridges, and how each treatment plays out. In both scenarios, your provider performs a thorough dental examination and X-rays and discusses treatment options to determine the best solution for your individual situation.
With a focus on our patients’ comfort, our providers perform each of these treatment procedures with options such as nitrous oxide or oral sedation.
A dental bridge fills the gap between one or more missing teeth. The chief components of this treatment option are an artificial tooth — or teeth, depending on how many teeth you’re missing — and two healthy teeth, one of each side of the gap, that support the bridge.
At 54th Street Dental, our providers perform dental bridges in two visits.
On the first visit, your dentist prepares the healthy teeth, which serve as the anchor points for the dental bridge, by shaving or scaling down their size slightly so that the bridge fits properly.
Then your provider creates an impression or mold of your mouth and teeth. Your dentist sends this information, along with color-matching information, to a dental laboratory, which fabricates your bridge.
When the bridge returns from the lab, you come in for your second and final appointment, where your provider adheres the bridge in place.
The process to get dental implants is more involved; it may take 6-12 months to complete.
With this treatment option, your dentist surgically places a titanium post or screw for each missing tooth. The screw or post ultimately mimics the root of a natural tooth by creating a solid foundation, much like your natural tooth once had.
For this option to be viable, you need to have a sufficient quality of bone density in your jawbone to support the implants.
If you’re a good candidate for the procedure, Dr. Boukadoum begins the process during an in-office surgical procedure, where she places a surgical post in every spot where a tooth is missing. She sends you home with post-op recovery instructions, and then nature takes over.
Over the next 3-4 months or so, the implants essentially heal in place and fuse to your jawbone in a process called osseointegration.
Once the implant area has healed, you return to the office, where the team takes an impression of your teeth and mouth. This information is sent to a dental laboratory with color-matching information so that custom crowns can be fabricated.
Once the crowns come back from the lab, Dr. Boukadoum installs one on top of every implant to create an artificial tooth.
Since bridges and implants have distinctly different characteristics, the location of your missing tooth will be a big factor in what is best for you.
Since a bridge may be more noticeable than the more natural-looking dental implant, a bridge may be a great option for missing teeth in the back of your mouth. If your missing teeth are in places that people see when you smile, then dental implants may be the best treatment choice.
Another consideration when choosing between dental implants and bridges is bone loss. Since dental implants more closely mimic the form and function of natural teeth, they also may prevent bone loss by helping your jaw retain its natural shape.
Bridges simply close a gap by suspending artificial teeth in the gapped area. While they create a viable aesthetic solution, bridges don’t replicate a tooth’s root structure and the stimulation it provides to keep your jawbone strong.
If you’re missing teeth and want to learn more about your best treatment option, contact 54th Street Dental for a consultation. To reach us, use the online booking tool, or call our office in the Midtown West neighborhood of New York City at 212-333-3200.