If you are missing one or more teeth, you know it can affect more than your eating habits and speaking ability. It can also impact your confidence and self-esteem. But it’s important to know that you have options—and they don’t end with dentures. Ask your dentist about the benefits of dental implants and bridges. The Problem With Dentures In the past, dentures were the go-to solution for missing teeth. For some people, they work just fine. But they can also cause lots of problems. Because dentures are difficult to fit, they can slip when eating or talking or make embarrassing clicking noises. Dentures can also lead to bone loss in the area of the missing tooth. To help your smile look more natural and keep replacement teeth secure, consider your other options. Dental Bridges A dental bridge replaces missing teeth with false teeth and anchors them with a bridge to at least one surrounding healthy tooth. To place a bridge, which is often made out of porcelain or ceramics, the healthy tooth on either side of the empty space must be filed down for a crown. The crowns join the false tooth and the dentist cements the bridge in place. Although a dental bridge is more stable than removable dentures, there are some drawbacks. Filing or cutting down adjacent, natural teeth to form the bridge can make these teeth more susceptible to problems like decay. And if these teeth become decayed, it can limit how long the bridge lasts. On average, you may need to replace the bridge every 7 to 15 years. Although they won’t last forever, dental bridges are a relatively low-cost way to secure replacement teeth and reduce the risk of problems like slippage. However, the newer solution of dental implants is considered a more successful way to replace missing teeth. Dental Implants These implants look and act very much like your natural teeth. They don’t rest on the gumline like dentures or use nearby teeth to anchor them in place. Rather, they are implanted in the holes where your natural tooth used to be. You can have a dental implant for just one tooth or many teeth. When you get dental implants, your oral surgeon surgically implants small durable titanium metal posts directly into your healthy jawbone. This replaces the root of your natural tooth and creates a stable base for the replacement tooth. It also helps prevent bone loss. Your dentist then creates and places a crown on top. Dental specialists known as prosthodontists also fit crowns. In addition to looking and feeling like real teeth, dental implants are not susceptible to decay and offer up to a 95% success rate. With proper care, dental implants can last a lifetime. Although dental implants offer clear benefits, they are more expensive than dental bridges and dentures. Talk through the cost and benefits with your dentist and oral surgeon so you can decide if implants are right for you. A Correctable Problem Don’t be embarrassed to seek replacement options for missing teeth. The problem is extremely common and can be corrected. Finding the right solution can improve how your teeth function—and how you feel about yourself. Ask your dentist about all the options available to you based on your unique needs. Taking charge of your oral health will give you something to smile about!