Please see our Smile Gallery – Dental Implants Sunshine Coast to see what can be achieved with dental implants. All the images are of actual patients treated at our Sunshine Coast dental practices.
When a tooth is missing, generally there are four options available: Leaving a gap or space, dentures, dental bridges or dental implants.
If this space is at the front of the mouth most people are not comfortable leaving a space as the appearance of a missing front tooth is not acceptable. If it is a back tooth that has been lost then many people are not concerned about the missing tooth. However, there are a number of consequences of leaving a gap at the back of the mouth. Teeth on either side of the gap and opposing the gap can drift into the space making the remaining teeth more likely to get food caught and get decay. This drifting can also result in the occlusion (the way your teeth bite and function together) being disrupted.
Back teeth are your chewing teeth. They take the load when you bite and chew, so a missing back tooth will affect your ability to function and chew. When a tooth is missing, you still have the same amount of load going through your jaws from your jaw muscles but this load is spread over less teeth. This means that the remaining teeth are under more load and are more likely to break, get loose or wear down. This is especially important when multiple back teeth are missing as the back teeth are no longer serving their role of taking the heavy biting forces. In this situation, the front teeth have to take the heavy bit forces, a role they are not designed to do. This results in splaying (drifting outwards), wear and breakage of the front teeth as a consequence of the loss of back teeth.
Dentures are made of either metal or plastic and are used to replace missing teeth and can be full dentures (replacing an entire arch of missing teeth and held in only by the gums) or partial dentures (replacing a few missing teeth and held in place by the remaining teeth and gums left in that arch). Dentures are removable meaning that they are taken in and out by you. Because of this dentures are not held securely in place so move around, rub, fall in and out, and can be difficult to eat, smile, laugh and talk with them in place. Because the gums support dentures they only have about 20% of the biting force of natural teeth (think about how hard you can currently chew on your gums rather than teeth). Generally, people with dentures therefore have a restricted diet where they can only chew softer foods and have to adjust their eating habits to suit what they can actually eat. Partial dentures also make it harder to clean the rest of your teeth making them more prone to tooth decay and gum disease. Partial dentures also put more load on the remaining teeth making them more likely to break and be lost due to excessive loading. The good part about dentures is that while they do not restore function particularly well, in many cases they can restore the appearance of the missing tooth.
Dental bridges are a great alternative to replace missing teeth. Dental bridges are fixed in place so cannot be removed by you and feel secure like natural teeth. Dental bridges restore both function (ability to chew, smile, talk) and appearance very well. The down side of dental bridges is that they need to have teeth on either side of the gap to support the dental bridge. This means that the end result is you have two teeth taking the load of three teeth which puts extra load on these support teeth.
In many cases dental implants are the ideal solution to replace a missing tooth. Dental implants can most closely restore full function and natural, lifelike appearance when a tooth is missing. However, not everyone is a candidate for dental implants. Please call any of our Sunshine Coast dental practices in Caloundra, Kawana and Maroochydore for a free dental implant consultation to see if dental implants might be possible for you.