Health UPP

Tooth Loss: What Are the Options?

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Dental Care

Tooth Loss – People lose teeth for a variety of reasons; it may be due to an oral health issue such as tooth decay, injury, or even simply  because of old age, which is primarily linked to periodontal or gum disease. Tooth loss can have a major impact on oral health, altering your “bite” and weakening the jawbone. Not only that, it can also have a negative effect on your mental and emotional wellbeing, since changes to personal appearance can have a major impact on self-esteem.

What Options Are Available?

When it comes to treating tooth loss, there are three main options available:

Dental Implant Surgery

If a single tooth has been lost, dental implants are generally preferred. This procedure typically involves a CT scan of your teeth to assess the shape and amount of jawbone the dentist has to work with, and whether an augmentation using bone or a bone-like substance will be required to give the implant a place to attach to.

Porcelain crowns are then implanted into the jawbone using screws, which are replaced by titanium abutments (or posts). Implant surgery can be effective, however it is also highly intensive, with long healing periods and usually more than one surgery involved.

Partial Dentures

These are a set of prosthetic (or “pontic”) teeth and a gum-color base affixed to a metal frame, which can then be inserted between your natural teeth. In some cases, crowns are added to the adjacent “abutment” teeth to anchor the dentures; this process involves the removal of enamel and is irreversible, so the abutment teeth will always require crowns.  As you age, your mouth changes naturally, so your dentures may need to be “updated” occasionally to ensure a comfortable fit.

Fixed Bridges

These are fixed devices which connect a pontic tooth to the natural teeth. There are four main styles of bridge available:

  • Traditional: One or more pontic teeth retained by two abutment teeth, typically used when there are natural teeth surrounding the gap, or if there is a gap on either side.
  • Cantilever: These are attached to an abutment tooth, except on one side – meaning a higher likelihood of dental complications.
  • Implant-supported bridges: These use pontic, rather than natural teeth. A single implant replaces each missing tooth to create a series holding the bridge together. Where this is not possible, a pontic tooth may be fixed between two implant-supported crowns.

Implant-supported bridges are typically used when there is a single missing tooth or a higher risk of too much pressure being placed on disconnected individual implants.

Affordability

If you have experienced tooth loss yourself, it’s important to know that you are not alone:  according to the CDC, around a quarter of adults over 65 have eight teeth or fewer, and despite what you might think, it can even be common in under-65s, particularly for smokers and disadvantaged groups lacking the support and resources needed for proper dental care.

If you struggle to pay for medical bills, your health still matters, and there is support available. Dental schools, free and public clinics can all assist with routine care, in addition to charities such as Dental Lifeline. Government dental coverage is another option,or you may find there are private dentists willing to assist with financial plans.

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