The term “dental prosthetic” is used to describe any type of artificial teeth used to replace ones that have been damaged through injury or decay. Two common types of dental prosthetics are conventional dentures and dental implants. Dentures and implants are very similar in function, but dentures are inserted by fitting new teeth between already existing ones. Implants are added by surgically putting metal nuts into the gum, and screwing the new teeth into the nuts with small screws found at the end of each tooth. Both options may be best for individual patients depending on the circumstances.
Dentures are generally the better option for those who only need a few dental prosthetic pieces put in place. Since most dentures are held in place by surrounding teeth and wire, the rest of the teeth should be in good health. Severe decay or gum disease may prevent dentures from staying in place as they should, or may result in needing additional procedures as more teeth fall out.
Implants are usually more realistic in appearance and function than dentures, but their high price means that they are not right for all patients. Since each individual tooth is screwed into place, there is typically no need for additional treatments because teeth tend to stay in place better than with conventional dentures. Although implants are not dependent on surrounding teeth for support, it is important that the patient’s gums be healthy enough for surgery because the nuts may further damage diseased gum, or the teeth may fall out entirely.
To prepare for dental prosthetic procedures, patients should work with a dentist to bring the gums to a state of health, as well as any real teeth which will remain after the dentures or implants are in place. If teeth will need to be pulled, this will generally occur several days or weeks before dental prosthetic materials are added to allow the gums proper time to heal. In many cases, a cast or mold of the patient’s teeth will be taken to allow for an exact replica to be created.
Options that patients can choose instead of dental prosthetics include veneers and crowns. This are pieces of materials that are made to cover or cap existing teeth. These options are generally used for cosmetic purposes only, and are not viable options for those with severe tooth decay or gum disease. Veneers are generally added to the front of the teeth to give them a more desirable appearance, and caps or crowns may be added to repair teeth which have been chipped or otherwise damaged.