There are five basic options available to treat the spaces created when teeth are lost:
- Accepting the space. This is seldom acceptable for visible front teeth but may be acceptable for teeth towards the back of the mouth.
- Moving other teeth into the space. For young patients, before a mature adult dentition is established, orthodontic tooth movement with fixed or removable braces may allow the teeth next to the space to be closed up to disguise the space. This is more complex for adult patients, often takes many months to achieve and relies heavily on having the correctly shaped tooth or teeth in the right place to be moved.
- Dental Implants. These are devices which can replace missing teeth by being set into the bone where the original tooth or teeth were lost. In most cases they permit restoration of spaces without involving the existing natural teeth and form an excellent and secure base on which the cosmetic and functional restoration (be it a single tooth, a bridge replacing several teeth or even a denture) can be built.
- Dentures. When a tooth or teeth are first lost a simple plastic denture is often provided while the tissues heal. This helps the patient eat and prevents social embarrassment. This simple design is only one of many types of dentures. Dentures are designed to be removed for cleaning and maintenance. Many are clipped to and supported by the remaining teeth instead of the gums.
- Dental bridgework. This relies on teeth next to, or near, the space to support a cosmetic or functional structure designed to carry the load which would have been carried by the tooth or teeth which are now missing. Bridges are not normally removable and have to be cleaned in the mouth. They usually involve crowning (trimming down) the supporting teeth although in some circumstances they may be bonded to the surfaces of the supporting teeth.