Q Why should I replace missing teeth?
A Your appearance is one reason. Another is that the gap left by a missing tooth can mean more strain is put on the teeth at either side. A gap can also mean your ‘bite’ is affected, because the teeth next to the space or opposing teeth, can lean into the gap and change the way the upper and lower teeth bite together. This can then lead to food getting packed into the gap, which causes tooth decay and gum disease.
Q How are missing teeth replaced?
A This depends on the number of teeth missing and on where they are in your mouth. The condition of the teeth you still have also affects the decision.
There are three main ways to replace missing teeth. The first is with a removable false tooth (or teeth) – called a partial denture. The second is with a fixed bridge. A bridge is usually used when there are fewer teeth to replace, or when the missing teeth are only on one side of the mouth. The third way is by the use of dental implants. This is where an artificial root is placed into the bone of the jaw and a crown or bridge placed on top of this. Please ask your dentist for more information.
Q What is a partial denture?
A This is a plate with one or more false teeth on it. It may be all plastic or a mixture of metal and plastic. Both types may have clips (clasps) to help keep the denture in place in your mouth. Depending on where they are, some of these clips may show when you smile or open your mouth.
Q What is the difference between a plastic partial denture and one that contains metal?
A Plastic partial dentures are less expensive to make. But unless they are designed very carefully, they can damage the teeth they fit against.
Metal partial dentures are usually made from an alloy of cobalt and chromium, and they are much stronger. They are lighter to wear and can be supported by the remaining teeth. Although the base is metal, they have gum-coloured plastic and natural-looking teeth fixed to them. They are more expensive than plastic ones.
Q How do I choose the best type for me?
A Be guided by your dentist. They will know the condition of your remaining teeth. In most cases a metal-based partial denture gives the best result.
Q Can I have a bridge fitted straight after having a tooth removed?
A It can take up a few months for your gums to heal properly after an extraction. This means that you may need to have a temporary replacement denture before the permanent bridge is fitted.
Q How do I look after my denture?
A Dentures may break if you drop them. Always clean your dentures over a bowl of water or a folded towel in case you drop them.
To clean your dentures, the general rule is: brush and soak every day. Brush your dentures first, to help remove any bits of food. Use a non-abrasive denture cleaner, not toothpaste. Be careful not to scrub too hard as this may cause grooves in the surface.
Make sure you brush all the surfaces of the dentures, including the surface that fits against your gums. This is especially important if you use any kind of denture fixative.
Soak your dentures every day in a denture-cleaning solution. This will help remove any plaque and stubborn stains that are left. It will also help to disinfect your dentures, leaving them feeling fresher. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Don’t keep your dentures in overnight unless there are specific reasons for you to keep them in.
If you notice a build-up of stains or scale, have your denture cleaned by your dental team.
Q Should I take my denture out at night?
A Your dental team may recommend taking out your dentures at night to give your mouth a chance to rest. If you do this, it is important to leave it in water to prevent any warping or cracking.
Q What are the alternatives to a partial denture?
A The main alternatives are a fixed bridge or a dental implant. A dental bridge is made by putting crowns on the teeth at either side of the gap, and then joining these two crowns together by placing a false tooth in the space. This is all made in the laboratory and then the pieces are cemented into place with special adhesives. The bridge can’t be removed.
Another option is an adhesive bridge. This has ‘wings’ that are bonded to the back of the supporting teeth, with very little drilling needed.
Q Can I always have a bridge to replace missing teeth?
A You can have a bridge only if you have enough strong teeth with good bone support. Your dental team will help you decide which is the best way of replacing missing teeth.
Q What are bridges made of?
A Bridges are usually made of porcelain bonded to precious metal. Sometimes other non-precious metals are used in the base for strength. There are also new bridges made entirely of a special type of strong porcelain. We now use more modern materials that contain no metal inside them.
Q What will a bridge cost?
A The cost will vary depending on the size and type of bridge you need. Although a bridge may seem expensive it should last many years.
Q How do I look after my bridge?
A You need to clean your bridge every day, to prevent problems such as bad breath and gum disease. You also have to clean under the false tooth every day. You will need to use a floss threader or special floss, because a normal toothbrush cannot reach. Your dental team will show you how to use these.
Q Are there other methods for fixing false teeth?
A There are other methods, such as using a combination of crowns and partial dentures that can keep the retaining clips out of sight. These are quite specialised dentures, so you should ask your dental team about them.
Q Can I have teeth which attach to my jawbone?
A Yes, by having implants. This treatment means you may be able to replace missing teeth without having crowns on other teeth. Remember that it is as important to care for your remaining teeth as it is to replace the missing ones.