- There are six different options for replacing a missing tooth: dental implants, dental bridges, partial dentures, complete dentures, implant-retained dentures and flipper teeth.
- Dental implants are the best option for a missing tooth due to their longevity, natural appearance and comfort. They are not suitable for people with low jawbone density and can be rather costly if many teeth are missing.
- Flipper teeth are the cheapest option for restoring a missing tooth. They are the least durable and are more common as a short-term solution.
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What are the pros and cons of each tooth replacement option? Here's everything you need to know.
Options for missing teeth
There are six different tooth replacement solutions you have for a missing tooth. Not everyone is a good candidate for every option, and your dentist will tell you which treatment options might be right for you.
A single tooth dental implant is the absolute best type of tooth replacement. You can use them to replace just one tooth, or to replace an entire arch. This is a long-term solution to the problem. In most cases, because of their high success rate, an implant will last for an entire lifetime.
Ideal candidates are healthy and have a stable amount of bone left to place the implant. However, technological advancements have made implants available to those who would not have been able to get one even five years ago.
The process to get a dental implant requires a surgical procedure and can take a few months since the bone needs time to integrate after the implant placement, but the wait is worth it and it allows you to spread out the costs over time. The price for a dental implant varies based on how many procedures you need, but a single implant ranges from $3,000 to $5,000.
Stable and durable
Treatment takes several months
Not everyone is an ideal candidate
A bridge is the second-best option for tooth replacement. They're most often used to replace a single tooth, but can replace two adjacent teeth if needed. Like implants, bridges are also a long-term solution, however, they are unlikely to last an entire lifetime. You'll need to replace a bridge every 10-30 years.
Anyone can get a bridge as long as the remaining adjacent teeth are healthy. If there has been a significant amount of gum disease and bone loss and the adjacent teeth are mobile, a bridge will not be a viable option. Or, you can get an implant-supported bridge which does not rely on any healthy teeth. It is, however, more expensive than a traditional bridge.
Bridges are placed in two appointments. The first one will prepare the adjacent abutment teeth for the bridge and an impression is taken to send to the lab. A couple of weeks later, you'll return to the office to place the final restoration. A 3-unit bridge costs somewhere between $1,500 and $3,000.
Expensive compared to other options
Can get tooth decay and need replaced
Not an option for many missing teeth
A partial denture is a more affordable option for those who are missing one or more teeth in an arch. They can last for several years, but are more of a short-term solution, especially if more teeth are lost after the initial partial is fabricated. In some situations, you can add additional teeth later as needed. With time, you may also need to replace dentures.
Most patients are good candidates for partial dentures. However, it's best to have the remaining natural tooth be stable and not mobile, since the denture will place pressure on those teeth. Patients with uncontrolled periodontal disease are not good candidates for this type of tooth replacement.
Partial dentures are completed in two appointments. At the first appointment, your dental office will take impressions of the arch. Then, at the second appointment, they'll try your partial in and make adjustments. You may need additional adjustment appointments until your partial is comfortable. Partial dentures range from $1,000 to $3,000.
May not last long
Places undue pressure on other teeth
Complete dentures are used to replace an entire maxillary arch, mandibular arch, or both. Complete dentures can last many years, but usually need to be replaced as the bone remodels and changes its shape. The prosthetic teeth can also wear over time.
Traditional dentures are best for individuals who still have adequate bone support. Without the proper bone and ridge, there is not much support for the denture and they will often become loose and dislodge.
Like partials, complete dentures are often done in two appointments. However, there are usually more adjustments needed, especially if teeth were removed just before the denture was fabricated. You may even have a temporary denture, called an immediate denture, for a few months before the final one is made. One denture costs between $1,000 to $3,000.
Restores all teeth at once
Often requires adhesive
Implant-retained dentures are a better solution to traditional dentures. The denture itself may still need to be replaced over time, but the implants typically do not need further treatment. Implant dentures are a long-term solution to missing teeth.
Anyone who is missing an entire arch of teeth is a good candidate for implant-retained dentures, but they can be especially useful for patients who have lost a lot of bone and don't have much support for the denture. The implants keep the denture in place, making it much easier to use.
Denture implants take time to make. Between placing the implants, the healing time, and then fabricating and adjusting the denture, you may not be finished for several months or even a year. There are a few different types of these dentures, but they can cost anywhere from $7,000 to $40,000 per arch.
Restores normal chewing function
Long treatment time
A flipper tooth is often the cheapest way to restore a missing tooth. They're typically used to replace just one tooth, but can be used for several within the same arch. Flippers are often not adjustable and break easily, which is why they are a temporary option only.
Most people are able to have a flipper made, but the remaining teeth should be healthy enough to support the extra pressure it will put on them. For someone who needs a tooth replaced very quickly, a flipper is a good option.
Most flippers can be made within one or two days. Your dental professional will take an impression at one appointment and then deliver the flipper at the next appointment. The average cost is between $500 and $2,000.
Not usually adjustable
Why should you never ignore a missing tooth?
Many people wonder why they even need to replace a missing tooth, especially if it is a back tooth that no one else can see. While that might seem logical, it can actually trigger a series of negative oral health consequences.
First, other teeth will eventually shift into the open area. The teeth adjacent will lean into the spot and the tooth opposing it will begin to supra-erupt into the space. "Supra-eruption" is when a tooth continues to work itself out of the jawbone and gums when it should have otherwise stopped. A tooth can actually supra-erupt so much that it becomes mobile and eventually will result in tooth loss. In some cases, if enough movement has occurred, you won't be able to replace the missing tooth in the future without other treatment being done as well.
In addition, missing even just one tooth causes you to put more pressure and force on the remaining teeth. This causes them to wear faster and you'll notice you have more fractures and broken teeth in the future.
What is the best option for replacing missing teeth?
The best option to replace a missing tooth is a dental implant. Implants provide the most stability, have the most natural appearance, and will likely last a lifetime.
What is the cheapest way to replace a missing tooth?
The cheapest way to replace a missing tooth is with a flipper. However, these are meant to be a temporary solution and you should not expect them to last long before needing a more permanent replacement.
How to fix a missing front tooth at home?
You should never try to fix your teeth at home. There is a lot of skill that goes into restoring teeth and you may do more damage than what has already occurred.