Restorative dental work describes any procedure that involves the replacement of missing tooth structure. When only part of a tooth is lost, due to cavity or chipping, that material can often be replaced with a simple filling or crown.
When an entire tooth is lost, treatment is more involved. But you have plenty of options for replacing a tooth, keeping your remaining teeth and bite intact—with natural-looking products most people will never notice.
Accidents happen. And sometimes that means a tooth (or more than one) gets knocked out and can’t be reimplanted. Other times, a tooth needs to be extracted for health reasons—for example, if there’s a significant amount of decay, a vertical root fracture, or a dental infection that root canals haven’t been able to solve.
Losing a tooth is like losing a team member, and everybody else has to pick up the slack. This means it’s usually a good idea to replace the tooth. Since every situation is different—you may be missing a single tooth, many teeth, or all of your teeth—every situation is treated differently.
The three primary treatments for restoring missing teeth are removable partial dentures, bridges, and dental implants. Each of these has benefits and drawbacks, and the best choice for you will depend on your particular needs.
Dr. Jennifer Silvers will evaluate your situation and help you decide which treatment will be best for getting your teeth and gums healthy and your smile looking great.
What are my options for replacing a missing tooth?
Patients who have a missing tooth or who need to have a tooth extracted typically have four options. The first option—to do nothing—is sometimes a possibility if its absence won’t create bite problems or put strain on the adjacent teeth. Your dentist will help determine whether you need a replacement to maintain the health of your remaining teeth.
If you and your dentist decide that your missing tooth or teeth must be replaced, you have three options. Removable partial dentures are typically used to replace multiple teeth in the same arch, meaning the upper or lower part of the mouth. Bridges replace a missing tooth with one crown that fills the gap and is connected to two additional crowns—one on either side of the gap. Dental implants are root replacements, and they are used when a single tooth—and the nerve at its root—is missing or has been extracted.
What are the differences between dentures, bridges, and implants?
Dentures, bridges, and implants are all used for different situations, and they all have pros and cons.
Removable partial dentures are the fastest and least expensive treatment for people who have multiple missing teeth in the same arch. However, you have to take them in and out, and they can put extra stress on the remaining teeth.
A bridge is two crowns on either side of a space, connecting to a third crown that replaces the missing tooth. During the process, the two teeth on either side of the space need to be prepared for crowns. That means that down the road, if the area needs treatment again, all three teeth will need to be treated. So while a bridge is less expensive than a dental implant in the short term, it can potentially result in more dental work down the road. Another downside to a bridge is that, in order to keep it clean, you have to floss under the bridge, so you have to use a floss threader.
Dental implants are a root replacement with a crown placed on top of it. This is the option that takes the longest, and it’s also the most costly. While the success rate for implants is very high, there are a few long-term issues to be aware of. With an implant, the bite will always feel a little different (but not painful) because the nerve is gone. Although you can’t get a cavity on a dental implant, it’s important to brush and floss it because you can still develop gum problems in the area. Sometimes the screw that holds the crown in place can come loose from normal wear and tear and may need to be tightened or replaced. In addition, since all of our teeth are constantly moving but an implant does not, it is possible for a gap to open up as other teeth move away from it.
How long does a tooth replacement take?
The amount of time you’ll need to wait for a tooth replacement after it has been extracted varies on the nature of the extraction and what type of replacement you’re getting. For dentures, it depends on how many teeth are being replaced. Sometimes it’s possible to make the denture beforehand and deliver it at the same time as the extraction, but depending on your situation, it could take 4 to 6 weeks. For bridges, there is typically a wait of 4 to 6 weeks to let the gums heal completely and settle where they will stay. You can be fitted with a temporary bridge to cut down on the time you are missing a tooth. For implants, it typically takes 3 to 6 months, but in some cases, dental implants can be put in at the same time as the extraction.
Can you make a replacement tooth match my existing teeth?
Yes, we understand that aesthetics are important to people. We’ll always make teeth look natural, and when a front tooth is being replaced, we’ll spend extra time to make sure the replacement is a perfect match. When a single front tooth is being replaced, we can work with a nearby lab to get an exact color match. If a patient is getting a dental implant in the front, we will also consider where the gum is, and can work with a gum specialist to make sure the gum line matches the teeth around it.
Are replacement teeth permanent?
Any of these may need to be replaced eventually. Partial dentures have a fairly long lifespan. But they last only as long as the teeth that are supporting them last, so if another tooth has to get taken out or needs a crown, the partial denture will likely need to be redone too. Bridges need replacing if they crack or break, or if the teeth supporting them get a cavity. With implants, it is very rare for the screw to need replacing, but the crown may need to be replaced if it fractures or moves.
Is restorative dentistry covered by insurance?
Portions of these services are often covered by insurance, but coverage is based on individual insurance plans. Some plans do not cover teeth that were extracted before the person’s current coverage started, so it may depend on when the tooth is removed. Our staff will be able to help determine your plan’s coverage.