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Article: Simple procedure can replace missing teeth DR. JERRY GORDON
The three most common ways a dentist can replace one or more missing teeth are a permanent bridge (a series of joined caps), an implant(s), or a removable partial denture.

One or several missing teeth is a common problem for many people who have had teeth removed because of advanced tooth decay, gum disease, injuries, and those who may not have developed some of their teeth due to an inherited trait. The three most common ways a dentist can replace one or more missing teeth are a permanent bridge (a series of joined caps), an implant(s), or a removable partial denture. Although the permanent bridge and dental implant(s) have certain advantages when compared to a removable partial denture, in some cases, the removable partial denture may be the best or only choice available.

The type of partial denture I recommend is the Valplast partial denture. Valplast partial dentures are made of a nylon thermoplastic material that has several advantages over the all acrylic or cast metal partial dentures. Valplast partial dentures have no metal clasps and are very lightweight. The material is translucent, so the patient's own gums show through, giving a very natural appearance. Valplast partial dentures can be used to replace many or just a few missing teeth.

One modification of the Valplast partial denture is called the Nesbit. The Nesbit is used to replace one to three teeth on the same side of the mouth and is much smaller than a conventional partial denture. The procedure can be completed in two short visits, requires no anesthesia or drilling of teeth (in most cases), and the cost is substantially less than either a permanent bridge or dental implants. A Valplast Nesbit is generally easy to get used to, and has a very realistic appearance.

Partial dentures can be a great alternative, but they do have several disadvantages. They are removable and should be taken out each evening to keep the mouth clean and give the gums a rest. They can also trap food and be difficult to get used to for some people. In general, those who have a permanent bridge or implants feel more confident and are less self-conscious about their missing teeth. Even so, I frequently recommend the Valplast Nesbit for patients who are phobic, the elderly, have difficultly tolerating more invasive dental treatment, and those who are looking for the most cost effective treatment available.

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Dr. Gordon is the dental columnist for the Bucks County Courier Times. He has published more than 300 articles since 1998. Dr. Gordon was recently asked to provide commentary about mid-level providers for the influential dental journal Dental Abstracts.

Dr. Gordon responds to an article in Dental Abstracts challenging his views.

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