Which Tooth Replacement Option Is Right for You?

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Many different tooth replacement options are available if you want to replace one or several missing teeth. But what are these options and what are the pros and the cons associated with each?

Our aim with this article is to give you an overview of the best tooth replacement options available today. Once you are I’m possession of all of the facts, you will be in a much better position to choose the right permanent solution for you.

Top options for replacing missing teeth

In this section of the article we are going to go through the most common methods for replacing one or severe teeth. 

It doesn’t matter what has caused the missing tooth in the first place. Often the reason is tooth loss due to severe gum disease and gum recession, but other diseases or accidents may also be the cause. Either way, the following replacement options are yours to pick and choose from, with the approval of your dentist.

Dental implants

Dental implants are a reliable and popular way of replacing natural teeth, whether we are talking about a single tooth or several missing teeth in different parts of the mouth.

Implants are typically made from porcelain, porcelain enforced with metal, or composite tooth-coloured resin. Each implant is screwed onto a metal post that goes into the gums in order to support the implant and hold it in place.

The dental implant procedure itself is no picnic, as metal posts are inserted into your gums – one for every single tooth you need replaced. On the other hand, once the implant has been put in place and has healed completely, it can last for a very long time. If you take great care of your dental implants and stay on top of your toothbrushing and flossing every day to keep your mouth clean and healthy, you should expect your dental implant to last a minimum of 10-15 years, and in some cases much longer.

Immediately after having a new dental implant installed, you are likely to notice that its texture feels slightly different compared to that of your other teeth. However, you will very quickly get used to it and forget that you even have an implant.

Dental implant pros

The primary advantage of dental implants is that they both look, feel and function like natural teeth. You can chew with them, and you do not have to worry about them falling out at any point. Unless someone is standing very close to you and is specifically trying to spot an implant, no one will even be able to tell than one or several of your teeth are dental implants rather than natural teeth.

Unlike some tooth replacement options, dental implants do not involve any of the surrounding teeth. In other words, the rest of your teeth are left intact and untampered with if you decide to get dental implants. 

Another upside to choosing dental implants is that they require no special treatment or regular replacements. In fact, you can treat dental implants exactly the same as the natural teeth around them, and the only difference is that you may need your implants replaced every few decades. Fortunately, replacing implants is much easier than getting them installed the first place, since only the crowns need to be replaced, and not the metal posts.

Dental implant cons

There are a few cons worth considering before you opt for dental implants. The price point is one of them. At $3000 to $6000 per tooth replacement, dental implants can quickly become an expensive way of replacing missing teeth. 

Another potential drawback is the fact that the metal posts holding the dental implants in place are screwed into the jawbone, which inevitably involves a rather invasive surgical procedure. With that comes healing time and the potential of the surgery site becoming infected.

Implant-supported bridge

An implant-supported bridge is a great solution if you are missing several teeth in a row. Repacking every single tooth would be both very costly and time-consuming, but an implant-supported bridge offers a simpler alternative.

When you get an implant-supported bridge, it is only the two teeth at the ends of the row of missing teeth that are replaced by implants. The rest are replaced by bridge that is secured on either side by the implants.

Implant-supported bridge pros

There are several upsides to choosing an implant-supported bridge if you are looking to replace several missing teeth at once and in a row. Cost is a major point, and an implant-supported bridge is a much more budget-friendly tooth replacement option compared to getting, say, five or six dental implants.

Some patients may worry that a bridge is automatically going to look fake and unnatural, but this is not true at all. A well-crated implant-supported bridge can look and function just as well as implants.

Implant-supported bridge cons

Implant-supported bridges have their limitations. One is that they are only a viable option if yo are missing several teeth in a row. If your missing teeth are distributed evenly throughout your mouth, you will have to get implants instead.

Implant-supported bridges do not last forever and will have to be replaced about every 10-15 years. Each replacement is going to require multiple dental visits.

Tooth-supported bridge

A tooth-supported bridge is almost exactly the same as an implant-supported bridge, with one notable difference. Whereas an implant-supported bridge is held in place by implants on either side of the row of missing teeth, a tooth-supported bridge is secured to teeth topped with crowns. 

Like an implant-supported bridge, having a tooth-supported bridge installed is a procedure that is typically spread out over several dental visits.

Tooth-supported bridge pros

The pros of a tooth-supported bridge are much the same as the pros associated with an implant-supported bridge. First of all, it is an economical choice. Replacing teeth with a bridge is always far less costly than replacing them with individual dental implants.

A tooth-supported bridge has much the same appearance and function as dental implants.

As another bonus, no surgery is required. 

Tooth-supported bridge cons

If you want a tooth-supported bridge, the teeth to which the bridge are secured will have to be filed down to the appreciate size and topped off with crowns. This increases the risk of tooth infection later on, and if the bridge is poorly fitted, it may damage the surrounding teeth.

There is one clear downside to bridges, whether they are supported by teeth or bridges, and it is that food particles can easily slip in under the bridge, which can be rather difficult to keep clean. As a result, tooth decay becomes more likely if you opt for a bridge.

Removable partial dentures

Dentures are something many of us associated with the elderly, but there is no age restrictions on getting dentures.

Removable partial dentures offer a very simple solution to missing tooth replacement. The removable partial dentures are simply clipped into place where the teeth are missing, and can easily be taken in and out of the mouth as needed. 

If you are only looking to replace a few missing teeth in an economical and effective way, removable partial dentures may be a good option for you.

Removable partial dentures pros

Removable partial dentures are highly customizable, so if you loose any more teeth in the future, more false teeth can simply be added to the existing dentures and be clipped into place. This can save you both time and money down the line.

Partial dentures are inexpensive, and they are also very easy to repair and replace. Even installing them is easy, and you will be able to clip them on and off as you wish.

Removable partial dentures cons

Unfortunately, removable partial dentures do not look as natural as either bridges or dental implants. This is a huge con to consider if you are self-conscious about your teeth.

Sometimes, removable partial dentures can sit uncomfortably in your mouth, which can make it tempting to only wear them when you need them, for example at mealtimes. 

Another distinct con associated with removable partial dentures is the fact that you will have to remove and clean them every single day. By contrast, cleaning dental implants is much easier and more natural, as you can simply treat them the same as your natural teeth.

Flipper dentures

Flipper dentures differ from partial dentures in that they have the ability to flip in and out of their positions – hence the name.

Unlike removable partial dentures, flipper dentures do not rely on the presence of any surrounding teeth and they do not need to be clipped into place.

Flipper dentures pros

Flipper dentures are lightweight and inexpensive compared to all of the other tooth replacement options we have talked about in this article. They are a great temporary solution, until a more permanent option is chosen and put in place.

Flipper dentures cons

Flipper dentures are only intended as a temporary option while you are waiting for implants, a bridge or a partial denture. This explains why they are rather bulky, a bit uncomfortable in the mouth and prone to breaking.

Tooth replacement FAQ

What is the cheapest way to replace a missing tooth?

Removable partial dentures are by far the most economical option for replacing one or multiple missing teeth.

Can you replace just one tooth?

Yes, absolutely. If you are looking to replace just one missing tooth, your best options are either getting an implant or removable partial dentures.

How much does it cost to replace a permanent tooth?

How much it costs to replace a missing tooth can vary significantly depending on which tooth replacement option you choose. 

At one end of the scale you have dental implants, which cost somewhere between $3000 to $6000 a piece, and at the other is partial removable dentures, which can cost as little as $300 to $500 per missing tooth. 

How long does a tooth replacement last?

How long a tooth replacement lasts also vastly depends on which tooth replacement option you have chosen.

A dental implant is the longest-lasting option, with implants often lasting 15+ years. In some cases, a dental implant can literally last a lifetime, provided that you take great care of it. 

Dental bridges, whether supported by implants or natural teeth with crowns, also tend to last a long time – 10-15 years on average.

Partial removable dentures are the least expensive missing tooth replacement option, but also the one with the shortest lifespan. Expect to have to replace your dentures every five to seven years.

Takeaway

Choosing the right replacement for a missing tooth – or several missing teeth – is an important decision. We hope that this article has made the choice a little easier, by laying out the facts, the pros and the cons of each of the most popular and effective tooth replacement options.

Dr Febin Mary George - Editor

With more than 10 years as a dental surgeon, Dr Febin Mary George is passionate about educating consumers around the world to help look after their teeth.

She completed her Bachelor of Surgery at the Century Institute of Dental Science and Research Centre in 2010.

Alongside editing the International Journal of Dental Clinics she has also written for major publications including Thrive Global.