If you have lost several teeth, getting a set of dentures often is the most viable replacement option. With the loss of a single tooth, however, there are more options, and the decision is not quite so clear-cut. Single-tooth replacement options vary by cost, appearance and procedure.
Removable Partial Denture
Removable partial dentures describes a tooth--or sometimes more teeth--replaced with a fitted set of clasps that attach to adjacent natural teeth. Removable partial dentures may not be left in all the time. Rather, they must be removed before sleep, after meals and for cleaning. While removable partial dentures may be an attractive and affordable option, they can damage surrounding teeth. The survival of existing teeth is less certain for people wearing removable partial dentures than for those who undergo other tooth replacement procedures or who simply do not replace the tooth at all. About 80 percent of patients treated with removable partial dentures continue wearing the replacement tooth after a year, which demonstrates a measure of unreliability and dissatisfaction associated with this option. For these reasons, dentists tend away from recommending removable partial dentures, as the risks are high and the rewards may be low.
Tooth Supported Bridges
Tooth-supported bridges are more highly recommended than partial dentures when it comes to single-tooth replacement, as the success rate for such treatment is generally high. A tooth-supported bridge procedure involves grinding down the two teeth adjacent to the missing tooth and forming a bridge between the gap. In these cases, the bridge includes a replacement for the missing tooth and caps for the remaining teeth, known as abutments. A bridge simply covers the gap with the exposed part of a tooth, known as a crown. That means the tooth is not implanted into the root by artificial means. Root problems with abutment teeth may lead to failure of a tooth-supported bridge after a decade or more. The risk of root canal issues is significantly higher with these bridges, as abutment teeth may decay and ultimately have to be removed.
Unlike the other procedures, a dental implant uses a titanium screw to secure the new crown into the jawbone. This replacement option does not harm the teeth surrounding a missing tooth. So the survival rate of abutment teeth is far higher than with other procedures. More importantly, implanted teeth last, on average, far longer than other tooth-replacement options. Most dental surgeons recommend implant prostheses due to the much lower risk and higher success rate. Advantages are significant in the long term, with 10-year survival rates of implanted teeth higher than 90 percent.