Cosmetic Dentistry

Options for replacing a single missing tooth

Published on 10/06/2024

A missing tooth can seriously damage your confidence and cause long-term problems for your oral health. Whatever the reason for losing a tooth, your dentist will want you to consider replacement options as soon as your tooth extraction site is healed

Why should you replace a missing tooth?

Replacing a missing tooth will help to restore your smile and your bite. It will offer long-term protection to the surrounding and opposing teeth. It can also help to avoid the risk of your jaw bone shrinking.

When the jaw bone is not in use – because a tooth is missing – the jaw can shrink and recede. This can leave the surrounding teeth vulnerable, as their roots can also be more exposed. A shrinking jaw bone can also change your facial shape, leading to asymmetry and a sunken look.

When you are missing a tooth, you are also more likely to favour chewing on the opposite side of your mouth. This can also lead to uneven wearing of your teeth and issues with your jaw.

By replacing the tooth, you can avoid many of these common issues. Here are some of the most common single tooth replacements available.

Dental bridge

A dental bridge is perhaps the most common type of dental restoration. This is a false tooth attached to two dental crowns on each side. The crowns attach to the surrounding teeth and support the false. It is also possible to get a false tooth that attaches to the back of the surrounding teeth with a small metal wing.

This restoration is ideal for a cost-effective restoration. You can choose from a wide range of materials, including porcelain, zirconia, metal or a mixture of materials. Metal teeth can be better for the rear teeth as they are stronger, while porcelain bridges are ideal for front teeth as they look more natural.

A dental bridge will typically last for around 5 – 15 years. This is obviously quite a large range, as this is because how you care for your bridge and your daily habits will determine how long the apparatus lasts. Things like grinding your teeth or chewing ice could shorten the life of your dental bridge.

Dental implant

A single tooth dental implant offers a second chance at having an original tooth. A small titanium screw is placed into the jaw bone and left to heal. This helps to provide a solid anchor foundation for a crown restoration. The dental implant replicates the role of the tooth root allowing you to enjoy a very realistic restoration. The tooth looks, feels and functions like a real tooth.

The process can take a long time to complete and the treatment plan is more expensive than a dental ridge. You can expect to wait around 3 – 6 months for the full restoration to be complete. 

While the dental implant should last a lifetime, the crown on top will be subject to normal wear and tear. However, it’s less likely that it will fall out as a bridge might. A more common issue you might face would be something like a cracked or broken crown. With good care, your dental implant crown could last around 15 years.

Partial denture

It is certainly possible to fix a gap in your smile with a partial denture. These dentures attach to the surrounding teeth using small metal clips. As the denture is removable, you’ll need to take it out to sleep.

A partial denture is ideal if you need to close the gap in your smile but aren’t sure which treatment plan you would like to consider in the long-term. It can be slightly less effective than a bridge, as the force of your bite will be absorbed by your gums, which can be less comfortable than a bridge.

Leaving a gap

It is also certainly possible to leave a gap in your smile, but you should be aware of the risks associated with this option. A gap in your smile will leave the surrounding teeth exposed to higher risk of damage. The teeth won’t have support, so they can drift into the gap left behind by the missing tooth.

In younger people, the gap may simply close over time. Orthodontics could help to speed this process along. However, older people do not have the same soft bones. Their bones are harder and therefore the teeth are less likely to close the gap on their own.

You can leave a gap in your smile in the short-term, but you should be prepared to deal with the consequences eventually. It may be that you decide to revisit the issue once the extraction site has completely healed and you are in less discomfort. It can be difficult to plan dental treatment when you are in pain due to dental decay or damage.