When most teeth are lost it is recommended that these lost teeth be replaced. Failure to do so, more often than not, leads to the remaining teeth shifting. This can cause bite problems, possible jaw-joint problems and complicate future attempts to restore the lost tooth or teeth. This shifting sometimes occurs in a surprisingly short period of time.
Historically, missing or lost teeth were replaced with either cemented bridges or with removable partial dentures. These options still exist today, but they have certain disadvantages.
With cemented bridges, the teeth next to the lost tooth have to be prepared (filed-down) and crowned. A false tooth replacing the missing tooth is attached to these crowns and the whole “bridge” is cemented to the prepared teeth. It does not come out, but has a major disadvantage in that cleaning underneath the bridge can be difficult and tedious, but nonetheless necessary. If not cleaned properly, dental decay or periodontal disease can occur, endangering the investment made.
With longer bridges, replacing several missing teeth, the bridge can flex ever so slightly, resulting in the cement breaking down or washing out. When this happens, the bridge may loosen or decay can silently begin along the bridge margins (edges), ruining the bridge.
With removable partial dentures, the appliance attaches to the remaining teeth, usually with clasps or wires, and may also rest on the gums. They can replace many teeth in a cost effective manner, however, they can be bulky, uncomfortable and unaesthetic. In addition, the partial denture must attach externally to several teeth and the fit has to be monitored closely over time. If it becomes a bit sloppy, the now slightly mobile partial denture can begin to rock and loosen the teeth supporting the appliance. This could lead to their eventual loss.