If you were involved in a car accident in which you lost one or more teeth, it's important to explore your options when it comes to tooth replacement. Hopefully your physician sent you to a skilled dentist or dental surgeon for an evaluation following your initial post-accident care. Whether you've already met with a dentist or are awaiting your appointment, this guide will help you to better understand your options when it comes to replacing your missing teeth and the likely benefits of each option, so that you can confidently choose the one that's right for you.
Three Common Means of Replacing Missing Teeth
Bridges: Dental bridges are the oldest method of replacing missing teeth. They consist of a crown, which mimics that of a normal tooth, and anchors, which affix to the teeth on either side of the gap. Bridges may be made from porcelain, ceramic, metals or a combination of these materials.
Partial Dentures: A partial denture consists of a gum-colored base with a metal framework and clasps that attach to your teeth. It contains multiple false teeth that snap into place when you insert the denture. Dentures can be removed and replaced as often as you desire.
Dental Implants: The newest means of replacing missing teeth, dental implants are surgically inserted into your jaw bone. They consist of a metal base, which is implanted first, and a porcelain or ceramic crown that is later affixed to the base. Dental implants look and feel exactly like natural teeth once they are healed.
Factors to Consider When Making Your Decision
Dental implants are commonly considered the premier means of replacing teeth, since they replace not only the crown, but also the root of the tooth, and because they typically last a lifetime after being inserted. However, they are not right for everyone. Keep the following factors in mind when discussing your options with your dentist.
How many teeth did you lose in the accident?
Because they attach to the surrounding teeth, dental bridges cannot be used to replace long rows of missing teeth. Typically, they are used to replace a single missing tooth, and in some cases, two teeth. If you are missing multiple teeth in a row, or if the teeth surrounding your missing tooth were harmed in the accident and are not strong enough to support a bridge, implants and dentures may be your only viable choices.
Are you willing and able to undergo surgery and a somewhat painful recovery period?
Dental implants are remarkable once they are in place. They don't wiggle around when you chew as dentures sometimes do, and you don't have to replace them as you may a bridge. However, they are implanted during a surgical procedure. If your accident was traumatic and you're recovering and in pain, you may not wish to subject yourself to more recovery time. Keep in mind -- you can always be fitted for a denture, and choose to have implants later on.
Implants also may not be an option if you're not healthy enough for surgery. Since they are inserted under general anesthesia, certain chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease may mean it's too dangerous for you to undergo implant surgery.
Does the idea of having family members see you without a full smile bother you?
Many patients find that partial dentures are a good solution for multiple missing teeth. They don't require surgery, and they can be re-fitted and adjusted as your mouth changes. However, you will have to remove your dentures in the evening. If the idea of your family members or partner seeing you without teeth worries you, dentures may not be the right choice.
You just survived a traumatic accident. Although you will need to make a choice about your missing teeth soon, it's important to take your time and think through the decision. Talk to your dentist and doctor for more information and their recommendations, and weigh each option carefully before making your choice.