Many people have at least one missing tooth in their mouth. Depending on the tooth, it may not be much of a concern or have any tangible impact on eating. In other cases, this can be a huge concern for either cosmetic or functional reasons and drive the individual to find a way to replace the missing tooth.
With the advances in modern dentistry, these missing teeth can be replaced via a few different methods, all of which vary in cost and effectiveness, and some options are not always applicable. The three main options for replacing missing teeth include a partial denture, a fixed bridge, and a dental implant. To help you understand the differences, benefits, and downsides to each, read on to find more information and some sample photos. You can also visit their corresponding pages for further case examples of each, or contact us for a consult to help you determine which option is right for you.
One of the biggest things to note with a partial denture is it is a removable appliance that stays in place via a friction fit, and has to be removed on a regular basis for cleaning. Partial dentures can look pretty good, are cost effective, great for replacing multiple missing teeth in one shot, but loose out to the other tooth replacement options in the function department. At Schau Dental, partial dentures can cost anywhere between $300 to $1400 depending on design, and often last between 2-10 years before needing replacement or modifications. The more expensive ones are designed to last longer and provide a tighter fit, and can be better suited to accommodate future tooth loss, whereas the cheapest option is often used to temporarily replace a single tooth during the implant process. However, regardless of the style, partials are still removable appliances. As a result, they will often move around during eating, especially with stickier foods like breads, gum, etc. Some people can handle this, others find it too annoying and end up opting for one of the other tooth replacement options.
- Cost effective way of replacing multiple teeth.
- Minimally invasive and easily reversible.
- Lower cost than other replacement options.
- Removable appliance lending it to shift while eating.
- Decreased chewing power compared to other replacement options.
- Bulkier than other replacement options.
- Does not preserve bone tissue where tooth was lost.
A fixed bridge is exactly that, fixed. This appliance involves crowns on the teeth on either side of the missing tooth with a fake tooth in the middle. Visually it looks like three crowns fused together with the middle one resting on or near the gum tissue. This is a very solid and functional restoration with a cost starting around $2500 and increases in cost with the more teeth being replaced. These usually last between 5-15 years depending on home care and restoration complexity, and have the potential of lasting longer.
Bridges provide the full function of the missing teeth and can be a nice cosmetic fix as well. Depending on their size, they can be quite strong and durable, and do not have the added bulk that partial dentures have. Unfortunately, due to their design, they are often more complex to keep clean. Cleaning under the bridge can be challenging and often these restorations will decay in difficult to detect and difficult to clean areas. In some cases the decay progresses quick enough that one of the abutment teeth are damaged beyond repair, resulting in the next restoration having to replace an additional tooth. This ultimately increases the cost above and beyond that of an implant.
- Fixed in place and does not move.
- Similar size to natural teeth.
- Can be a close cosmetic match to the missing tooth.
- Require significant modification to the abutment teeth.
- Harder to keep clean than natural teeth.
- Increased stress on abutment teeth that can decrease their lifespan.
- When a bridge fails, it can often take a tooth with it.
- Do not preserve bone where missing tooth is.
Dental implants are the closest thing to a natural tooth. They are imbedded into the bone which locks them in place and helps to preserve and stimulate the bone. They can be done as single teeth or used for implant supported bridges to replace multiple teeth. They can also be used as anchorage for complete and partial dentures. In the case of single or multiple tooth replacement, dental implants provide the best function withouth compromising the adjacent teeth. They are also easier to maintain in the long run as they are not susceptible to decay and are more resistant to gum disease than a natural tooth. Implants can cost between $3500 – $5000 each, and have the potential to last for well over 20 years (potentially a life time, but implants are still too new for that claim to be validated by research). With their long life implants can end up being cheaper in the long run than fixed bridges.
- Do not rely on adjacent teeth for support.
- Full chewing function.
- Can be very cosmetic as it emerges from within the gum tissue like a natural tooth.
- Potential for best longevity over other options.
- Stimulates bone to prevent bone loss.
- Highest initial cost out of all the options.
- Longer process which can take up to a year to complete.
- May require bone grafting to complete.
- Higher risk of complications with some medical conditions.