Your appearance is one reason. Another is that the gap left by a missing tooth can mean greater strain is put on the teeth on each side. A gap can also mean your 'bite' is affected, because the teeth next to the space can lean into the gap and alter the way the upper and lower teeth bite together. This can then lead to food getting packed into the gap, which causes both decay and gum disease.

This depends on the number of teeth missing and on where they are in the mouth. The condition of the other teeth also affects the decision. There are two main ways to replace the missing teeth. The first is with a removable false tooth or teeth - a partial denture. The second is with a fixed bridge. A bridge is usually used where there are fewer teeth to replace, or when the missing teeth are only on one side of the mouth.

This is a plate with a number of false teeth on it. It may be all plastic or a mixture of metal and plastic. Both types may have retaining clips (clasps), to help keep the denture in place in the mouth. Depending on where they are, some of these clips may be visible when you smile or open your mouth.

Usually plastic, and occasionally porcelain. Each replacement tooth is made specially, to get the right shape, colour and size for you.

Plastic partial dentures are less expensive to make but unless they are designed very carefully they can damage the teeth they fit against. Metal partial dentures are usually made from an alloy of cobalt and chromium and they are much stronger. They are lighter to wear and can be supported by the remaining teeth. Although the base is metal, they have gum-coloured plastic and natural-looking teeth fixed to them. They are more expensive than the plastic ones.

Be guided by your dentist. He or she will know the condition of your remaining teeth. In most cases a metal-based partial denture gives the best result, but the higher cost may make you decide against it.

You should remove the denture from your mouth for cleaning. You'll be shown how to clean it by your dentist or hygienist, probably with a small toothbrush and toothpaste, or by soaking it in cleansing solution. If you have a metal based denture you'll need to choose a cleansing solution that's suitable for metal.

Yes. leave it in water to prevent it warping.

The main alternative is a fixed bridge. This is made by constructing crowns on the teeth at either side of the space, and then joining these two crowns together by placing a false tooth in the space. This is all made in the laboratory and then the pieces are cemented into place with special adhesives. The bridge can't be removed.

Providing you have enough strong teeth with good bone support, yes, you can usually have a bridge. Your dentist will help you decide which is the best way of replacing the teeth within your budget.

Although a bridge may seem expensive it will give many years of use. It will also improve your appearance and bite. A bridge uses the considerable skill of the dentist and technician, and in this way, it's similar to ordering a piece of hand-made jewellery. The materials are also expensive so it's fair to say a bridge will not be the cheapest treatment you have ever had.

You need to clean your bridge every day, to prevent problems such as bad breath and gum disease. You also have to clean under the false tooth every day. Your dentist or hygienist will show you how to use a bridge needle or special floss, as a normal toothbrush cannot reach the area.

There are other methods, such as using a combination of crowns and partial dentures that can keep the retaining clips out of sight. These are quite specialised dentures, so you should ask your dentist about them.

This is possible with the use of implants. The success of this technique means you may be able to replace missing teeth without crowning other teeth. Our leaflet on implants explains this in detail. Remember that it's as important to care for your remaining teeth as it is to replace the missing ones.

  1. Why should I replace missing teeth?
  2. How are missing teeth replaced?
  3. What is a partial denture?
  4. What are the replacement teeth made of?
  5. What is the difference between a plastic partial denture and one that contains metal?
  6. How do I choose the best type for me?
  7. How do I look after my denture?
  8. Should I take my denture out at night?
  9. What is the alternative to a partial denture?
  10. Can I always have a bridge to replace missing teeth?
  11. Are bridges expensive?
  12. How do I look after my bridge?
  13. Are there other methods for fixing false teeth?
  14. Can I have teeth which attach to the jawbone?
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