Many people who have lost teeth or are going to lose teeth are faced with the difficult decision of what to do once the tooth has been removed. Several options exist including leaving the space where the tooth used to be open, removable appliances such as dentures, bridgework or crowns also referred to as fixed partial dentures, and dental implants. Each one of these options comes with their own set of positive and negative aspects. Leaving the space for example can lead to shifting of the teeth and loss of support from bone loss around the remaining teeth over time. The obvious positive is that doing nothing costs nothing. Removable appliances are very useful in restoring multiple large spans of missing teeth and are a little more cost effective, but they are removable and therefore are not as solid a chewing device as something fixated to your mouth and may not be as esthetically pleasing as the other options. Crown and bridgework appliances have been used in dentistry for a long time and are an effective way to replace teeth and fill the gaps; the problem is that they rely on the other teeth to hold them in place. These other teeth must be altered (cut down) in order to accommodate the shell that goes over the tooth. If one of the supporting teeth should develop a cavity the entire appliance must be redone. And if there are no teeth at the back of the mouth there are no good ways to attach teeth in those areas possibly preventing you from having back teeth.
Dental implants are a more modern technique (although they have been in place for 40-50 years) to allow for replacement of missing teeth. Dental implants are modified screws that are placed into the surrounding jaw bone as anchors for the dentist to screw in any type of replacement teeth. Implants can be used to support single teeth, multiple teeth, and removable denture like appliances. The positive attributes of implants are their high success rates and longevity, their ability to be used in multiple treatment methods, and the high esthetic outcomes. The negative aspects of implants are few but are related to cost and timing. Although occasionally it is possible to place the implant and the restorative crown on the same day or in the same week, usually there is a healing time of several months prior to placement of the dental crown. And although single implants are comparably cost effective to a three-unit bridge to replace a single missing tooth, the cost of placing multiple implants to treat more complex cases can be higher. It is important to discuss your treatment options with your general dentist or one of the oral surgeons at Pottstown Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery to create a clear picture of your needs as a patient and the options for your specific case.