how to replace missing teeth

Over in the UK, there’s a new TV series creating buzz on Twitter and the internet. The reality show Never Seen a Doctor, people who have significant health issues but who have been avoiding a doctor’s care undergo state-of-the art medical treatments. The first episode aired this week and featured a woman who has been hiding her missing front teeth…with chewing gum.

Viewers live tweeted during the show to express their shock and horror, saying: “Chewing gum teeth instead of going to the dentist #crazy.”

Missing teeth are, in fact, quite common here in the U.S. According to The American College of Prosthodontists, more than 35 million Americans do not have any teeth, and 178 million people in the U.S. are missing at least one tooth—and those numbers are expected to grow.

The cause of tooth loss? Tooth decay and gum disease, both of which are all-too-common health problems. There are, however, treatments for restoring tooth loss. Among the many ways that missing teeth can be replaced, three of the most popular are implants, fixed bridge and dentures. 

With implants, an artificial tooth root is placed into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth. Dental implants may be an option for people who have lost a tooth or teeth due to periodontal disease, an injury, or some other reason. As with your real teeth, you must care for your implants and keep them clean and plaque-free with regular brushing and flossing.

Replacing teeth with a fixed bridge works best if the missing teeth are in an area where there are a number of healthy teeth to support the artificial teeth. With the bridge, the adjacent teeth are cut down to remove all the enamel, and then a prosthetic tooth (or teeth) is suspended between the adjacent teeth. But this process isn’t without complications. Says the Academy of Osseointegration: 

Long-term, fixed bridges between natural teeth have an average life expectancy of 10-12 years before requiring replacement. Replacement of fixed bridges often entails further treatment as the abutment or supporting teeth have been further compromised over time by advancing dental disease (such as cavities or periodontal bone loss).

Unlike implants and fixed bridges, dentures can be removed by the patient. Partial or full dentures can replace a single tooth, several teeth, or an entire row of teeth.

So which option did the British woman on Never Seen a Doctor choose? She underwent surgery during which she had 17 teeth removed and received a permanently fixed bridge of dentures. Click here to see the before and after.

After the reveal of her “gnashers,” as she called them, viewers’ tweet took a turn toward the impressed and amazed, saying: “Dentistry these days is like mechanical engineering!!” wrote one viewer on Twitter. “Amazingly skilled job with fab results!”