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FAQs - Losing and replacing teeth

Tooth decay and periodontal disease are the most common causes of tooth loss.  Tooth decay takes place when most of the tooth's mineral makeup has been dissolved away and a hole (cavity) has formed. While tooth decay primarily affects children, periodontal disease, or gum disease, affects mostly adults.  Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums caused by the build-up of plaque, and its earliest stage is known as gingivitis.

When a tooth is extracted, a blood clot forms in the hole where the tooth once was. This blood clot is very important because it protects the bone tissue underneath as well as supplies the surrounding tissue with nutrients to help the healing process. If this blood clot fails to form properly or becomes dislodged, the bone tissue is exposed to air and debris. When the bone is exposed to air, it will begin to dry out. This is what the term "dry socket" refers to. A dry socket is very painful and must be treated immediately in order for proper healing to take place and reduce the risk of other complications. When a dry socket occurs, the dentist will clean out the socket and pack it with a medicated dressing. The medicine will ease the pain as well as promote proper healing of the extraction site.

Anyone who is in danger of developing impacted wisdom teeth (third molars that only partially erupt or get trapped or stuck in the jaw) should have them removed so that they do not damage adjacent molars and cause other oral problems.  In addition, anyone who is getting dentures should have their wisdom teeth removed.

A dental implant is a metal device designed to replace missing teeth. The device is usually made out of titanium and is surgically placed into the jawbone where the tooth is missing. Unlike a dental bridge, an implant is permanent.
A dental implant is designed to act as the tooth root and can anchor an artificial tooth or teeth such as a crown, bridge or denture.

A bridge may be recommended if you're missing one or more teeth. Gaps left by missing teeth eventually cause the remaining teeth to rotate or shift into the empty spaces, resulting in a bad bite. The imbalance caused by missing teeth can also lead to gum disease and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.

Bridges are commonly used to replace one or more missing teeth. They span the space where the teeth are missing. Bridges are cemented to the natural teeth or implants surrounding the empty space. These teeth, called abutments, serve as anchors for the bridge. A replacement tooth, called a pontic, is attached to the crowns that cover the abutments. As with crowns, you have a choice of materials for bridges. Your dentist can help you decide which to use, based on the location of the missing tooth (or teeth), its function, aesthetic considerations and cost. Porcelain or ceramic bridges can be matched to the colour of your natural teeth.

Dentures are a partial or complete set of artificial teeth used to occupy the upper or lower jaw, usually attached to a plate.  Simply put, dentures are a set of false teeth.

If you have lost most or all of your teeth, you are a perfect candidate for complete dentures.  If you still have some natural teeth remaining, a partial denture is recommended to help improve chewing ability, speech, and support for facial muscles.