For older adults suffering from tooth loss and decay, a number of replacement options are available to restore a healthy, beautiful smile.
Most often caused by untreated decay, tooth loss is more common than you might expect. It’s estimated that 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth, and as many as 40 million have lost them all! Adults 65 and older are the most likely to be missing teeth, as factors often associated with aging, like menopause or dry mouth caused by medication usage, can increase the risk of decay.
Fortunately, if you’re missing one or more teeth, you have a plethora of replacement options to keep you smiling.
A temporary tooth can be a cost-effective solution to fill the area left by a missing tooth while you wait for something more permanent. Referred to as temporary partial dentures or “flippers,” this option consists of a hard, acrylic base with one or more prosthetic teeth attached. Similar to a retainer, a temporary partial can be easily placed and removed. And not only will temporary partial dentures fill the space created by the missing tooth or teeth, they will also prevent other teeth from shifting while you await a long-term solution.
The next step up from temporary partial dentures is a semi-permanent option known as partial dentures. While not glued in or permanent, this option offers a longer-term solution to missing teeth. They are typically used if one or more natural teeth remain in the upper or lower jaw. There are two types of partial dentures: a traditional rigid partial with a metal base, and a lightweight, flexible partial fabricated with nylon-like materials that blend with the tissue of your mouth. Your dentist can help guide you to the best option for your case.
When seeking a permanent solution to missing teeth, one option is a bridge. A bridge is composed of two crowns for the anchoring teeth that surround the missing tooth (called abutments) with a false tooth (called a pontic) in the middle to fill the space.
If you are missing all of your teeth, full dentures can be a permanent solution. Full dentures are replacement teeth that are fitted into an acrylic base that fits over your gums. The upper denture includes a plate that covers the roof of your mouth, while the lower denture is horseshoe-shaped to allow room for your tongue.
A third permanent option for missing teeth is dental implants. With dental implants, titanium screws are placed in the bone to mimic the roots of the missing teeth, and porcelain crowns are then placed on the new “roots” to give the patient a natural look.