Maybe you need a tooth replacement, and it’s something you haven’t thought about before. You know you need whatever is best for you, and maybe you just want to leave that decision to your dentist. While it is important to have a dentist you can trust, it’s also good to know a little about what options you have.
Which Tooth Replacement Is Right For You?
The three main types of tooth replacement are dental implants, dental bridges, and dentures.
A dental implant is a metal bolt, typically with screw threads, driven into your jawbone. The bone grows and fuses around it, and the dentist mounts a replacement tooth on it. Of all the replacement options these are the most like natural teeth in feel, appearance, and how to clean them. Implants also prevent bone loss in the jaw, which can happen with bridges and dentures, and have no negative impact on the health of neighboring teeth. The implants in the bone itself usually last a lifetime, and the crowns attached to them around 10-12 years. At somewhere in the region of $1,000 to $3,000 per implant, they are more expensive than dentures, but with their sturdiness and long lifetime, they are often worth the cost.
A dental bridge is an artificial row of usually three teeth, but sometimes more, connected together in a solid line. The outermost “teeth” are hollow in order to fit over healthy teeth that are still in place. This means the dentist has to file those teeth, called “abutments” down, and then a dental technician builds the artificial teeth to fit them. The artificial tooth that goes in the place of the missing one is called the “pontic” because it bridges the gap (pons is Latin for bridge).
Bridges are closer to natural teeth than dentures are but not as close as implants. For the most part they look and feel like natural teeth, though because the pontic is not grounded in the gum, the abutments that support it may feel more pressure in each bite than they used to. They are sturdy, but can still break, and since they normally replace only one tooth, losing either of the abutment teeth will mean more surgery. They can last 15 years, or even longer with good hygiene, before needing replacement.
The cost is usually higher than for an implant, at about $2,500 to $5,000, because of the work to modify the abutment teeth. Bridges also do not prevent bone loss.
Dentures, known commonly as false teeth, come in various forms. There are complete dentures, for when all the teeth in an arch are missing, and partial dentures, in which only a section of an arch needs replacement. Some partial dentures are removable by the patient themselves, and some are fixed and need a professional to remove them.
The big downsides to dentures are comfort, convenience, and life span. They must be removed to be cleaned, and they can slip around. They can also irritate the gum. Products exist to mitigate these problems, but partial dentures may still increase cavity risk for neighboring teeth, and even if all goes well dentures only last up to eight years.
The advantage of dentures is their cost. If you lose large numbers of teeth, a bridge might not be possible and dentures, even at an upper limit of $5,000 per plate, are always going to cost less than implants.
Back to what we said at the top, knowing what your options are and having a dentist you can trust are equally important. You should not go into it with no idea what to expect, but you should also be sure your dentist has the experience to know what treatment is best for you.
Here at Apple Valley Dental, Dr. Paul Byers has been practicing dentistry since 1989 and restorative/operative dentistry since 1997. He has been with Apple Valley Dental Group since 2000, where he specializes in tooth replacement. If you would like an appointment to talk about tooth replacement options or any other aspect of your dental care, call us at 540-635-2493 or contact us online.