There are three basic ways to fix a missing tooth or teeth.
(Note: Many people find our web site content so valuable, they want to copy it onto their site. Click here if you want to copy some of our web site content).
Here are the pros and cons of each treatment:
The advantages of a bridge are that it is fixed, stable, and feels like your own teeth. In most cases it can be made to look just like you never had a tooth missing. The disadvantage is that you have to treat two teeth besides the one that was extracted - these teeth may otherwise be perfectly sound with nothing wrong.
Using the ovate pontic technique with a dental bridge can create the illusion that the false tooth is growing out of the gum.
Something removable can be used to replace a missing tooth. This can be anything from a budget "dental flipper" (a piece of plastic with a false tooth attached) or a Nesbit, to a more sturdy metal and acrylic removable partial denture.
A dental implant is an artificial "root" that is implanted in your jaw after a tooth extraction, and then a tooth is placed on it. Biologically, it is like placing an entirely new artificial tooth in your mouth.
The advantages of an implant are: No teeth on either side have to be prepared for crowns, so there is no grinding on "good teeth" - you just fix the missing tooth. Implants can also span the space of multiple missing teeth. There is no limit to the span they can cover, as long as the patient's health is good and there is healthy and adequate bone to support the implant. An implant also is fixed and feels just like your own teeth. Read our more thorough discussion of implants, plus see before-and-after photographs, on our cosmetic dental implant page.
However, if you are missing multiple teeth or all your teeth, there is a strong advantage to dental implants in that they will preserve the jawbone. Sometimes dentists don't explain the negative long-term consequences of missing teeth, which are that your jaw gradually shrinks until you can't wear any removable appliance. To read more about this, please see our page about facial collapse. So if you want to still be able to eat when you're 80, you may want to consider investing in dental implants to replace those missing teeth.