What to do about missing or damaged teeth

Learn how a prosthodontist can help, National Prosthodontics Awareness Week is April 8-14
What to do about missing or damaged teeth

Loana Tovar Suinaga, D.D.S., M.S.

by Loana Tovar Suinaga, D.D.S., M.S., assistant professor, Department of Oral Health and Rehabilitation
Have you ever wondered what to do if you lose a permanent tooth or have a significant space between teeth? Or have you questioned whether you can change a denture or feel more comfortable in a partial or complete denture?

In the United States, an estimated 120 million people are missing at least one tooth, and 36 million Americans are missing all their teeth in one or both jaws. Missing even one tooth can affect a person’s confidence, job prospects and overall health.

Prosthodontists are licensed dentists who specialize in the restoration and replacement of damaged or missing teeth, and can help you consider a number of options for restoring your smile and function.

There are several choices:

  • Fixed prosthesis: crown, bridges over natural teeth
  • Removable prosthesis: partial or complete dentures
  • Implant supported prosthesis: implant assisted complete and partial dentures, and implant supported crown and bridges.

The type of restoration depends on the number of missing teeth, location in the mouth and medical condition of the patient. Fixed prostheses are ideal and behave as natural teeth, they are fixated to the jaw and don’t have to be removed for cleaning purposes. Removable prostheses are more affordable, but often are not the top choice of many patients because of the need to be removed for cleaning, compromise of esthetics, deterioration of fitting over time, and diminished chewing ability. Implant supported removable prostheses, on the other hand, provide good chewing capacity, adequate fitting, improved esthetics and provide a middle ground in terms of cost.

Usually, patients missing only one or two teeth prefer a fixed implant supported prosthesis since they don’t require prepping healthy teeth surrounding the affected area. Patients with multiple missing teeth may opt for a removable prosthesis assisted by implants, since they provide some of the benefits of the fixed prosthesis in a more affordable way.

Patients who’ve been wearing complete dentures for some time but have never gotten used to them experience increased satisfaction and quality of life when adding implants to the prosthesis. Individuals with a partial removable denture also experience an improvement in the function and esthetics when implants are added to the prosthesis, since implants eliminate the need for a clasp to be placed over the teeth.

An implant supported removable prosthesis uses an attachment that snaps on top of the implant that is surgically fixated within the jaw. The amount of retention provided by these attachments can be increased or decreased depending on the ability of the patient to insert and remove the prosthesis and wear of the components.

To learn more about the many options available, contact the University of Louisville School of Dentistry at 502-852-5096 to schedule an appointment. If you’d like to book a consultation with a prosthodontic faculty provider, call 502-852-5401. Learn more about our practices at  uofl.me/yourdentalhome