Replacing Missing Teeth

Your teeth affect your whole body. When they’re healthy, you’re healthier too. A missing tooth can affect your bite balance, speech, appearance and eating choices. Pain negatively affects everything you do.

As you place more stress forces on fewer remaining teeth, you increase the chance they will wear out prematurely leading to cracking and tooth loss. You may also experience headaches and/or jaw pain due to biting on fewer teeth.

Stress forces or your bite forces need to be distributed evenly.

Who would want their appearance and health to deteriorate? But, that is the natural consequence of missing teeth — the jaw literally melts away. Generally, people will lose 25% of their supporting jawbone structure within the first year after tooth loss due to natural bone remodeling and resorption process. Your bone cells are “mechanoreceptors” that signals if your bone is being used or not. When you lose a tooth, the chewing pressure is lost and no longer translated to the bone. This is why bone loss occurs after tooth loss.

Dental implants are placed relatively easier when teeth are first extracted because you are likely to have your natural bone volume.

Dental implant placement becomes more complex and expensive as time passes because bone loss has occurred and there is a need for bone grafting.

What do dental implants feel like in the mouth? They should feel like nothing, literally, like natural healthy teeth.

Dental Implant Infographic

A good candidate for implant treatment is:

  • motivated to maintain oral health
  • motivated to improve general health
  • understands what an implant is and respects the process
  • able to perform daily, basic oral hygiene
  • missing one or more teeth
  • missing all of your teeth
  • meets measurements requirements for a properly fit restorative crown
  • unhappy with loose dentures or bridge
  • unhappy with loss of taste due to denture covering palate
  • free of periodontal disease (no gum disease or shrinking bone disease that comes from innate bacteria)
  • relatively healthy (able to predictably heal after surgery)
  • unhappy with “holes” or “spaces” in your smile
  • cannot chew food properly
  • cannot speak properly due to tooth loss
  • collapsed bite (teeth are shifting into empty spaces and not coming together in balance)

Bone grafting is needed if:

  • x-ray shows bone loss
  • x-ray shows sinuses have “pneumatized” or filled with air instead of bone
  • clinical exam shows a thin ridge that will not hold a proper sized implant
  • trauma has caused bone loss
  • six months or more has passed since extracting the tooth

Contraindications to implant treatment

  • periodontal disease
  • collagen and bone disease
  • tobacco use
  • alcohol abuse
  • blood dyscrasias
  • compromised medical conditions
  • compromised psychological conditions
  • uncontrolled diabetes
  • radiation therapy to the area
  • immunosuppressive illnesses
  • poor hygiene habits
  • extremes of age

A Simple Panorex X-ray of your jaw will be taken to evaluate whether they will accommodate implants. Cone Beam CT may also be required for more difficult cases to determine how much bone is needed for proper placement of the implant.

A proper sized implant and the correct number of implant(s) must be placed in order to distribute the stress forces of your bite.

Tooth Replacement Options

You can select from a number of different options to replace your missing teeth — from temporary to long-lasting solutions.

Alternative Options to Dental Implants Used in the Past

A photo of a mouth with a fixed dental bridge

Fixed Bridge

A fixed bridge is a connected set of replacement teeth. For support, it is cemented into position on top of the teeth adjacent to the empty space. The protective outer layer of these teeth is usually removed or ground down prior to attaching the bridge.

An sample of a removable retainer with a plastic tooth known as a flipper


A fragile, temporary and inexpensive solution is a removable plastic tooth with a plastic retainer, often called a “flipper”.

A depiction of a sturdy partial denture cast in metal and plastic

Metal Partial

A less fragile option is a removable partial denture cast in metal and plastic. It is held in place by wire clips. A removable partial denture can be removed and reinserted when required by the patient.

A photo of a mouth with the representation of a full denture for the entire lower jaw


The most common solution, for people missing all teeth in one or both jaws are complete dentures. Some people adapt well to dentures. Others find them uncomfortable, even intolerable, because of differences in jaw size and shape. The bone underneath tends to thin away as it has lost it’s former job in holding roots that help chew.

A visual of a permanent dental implant to replace missing teeth

Dental Implants

Dental implants are the most comfortable and permanent solution. They form a strong foundation for teeth and keep the jaw healthy, strong and in function. Implants give the bone something to do! Implants support individual replacement teeth or secure specialized dentures in place. Unlike bridges, no healthy teeth are damaged. Unlike most bridges, implants can last a lifetime. Implant-supported replacement teeth can be attractive, stable, and comfortable for almost any patient.

Why Select Dental Implants Over More Traditional Types of Restorations?

There are several reasons:
A dental bridge can sacrifice the structure of surrounding good teeth to bridge the space of the missing tooth/teeth. In addition, removing a denture or a “partial” at night may be inconvenient, and can be socially uncomfortable.