Each Option has Pros and Cons Depending on the Health of Your Teeth and Your Budget
Nearly 70% of adults aged 35 to 44 years in the United States have at least one missing tooth due to an accident, tooth decay, gum disease, or dental fractures, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. But there’s no need to go through life with missing teeth. These days, many good alternatives are available from the team at Personal Care Dentistry. Your missing teeth can be replaced with dental implants, bridges or dentures.
Dentures, partial or complete, replace either the bottom arch or the top arch of your mouth. Dentures are false teeth, and although their quality has improved, they’re not ideal for everyone. If not secured with denture adhesive, dentures might slip out of place while eating or speaking, which is embarrassing, and partial dentures might promote infection and decay in other teeth if they aren’t fitted properly, which may increase the risk that you would need a tooth filling on the abutment (adjoining) tooth. That said, dentures may be the best choice for people whose gums and jaw are weak or unhealthy.
A bridge is a dental restoration that spans an area that has no teeth and is connected to natural teeth at each end. A typical bridge consists of a filler tooth that is attached to two surrounding abutments or crowns. After completion, this bridge structure is then bonded into the mouth.
Dental implants feel and function just like your natural teeth. They are permanent fixtures of titanium posts, which are anchored to the jawbone and topped with individual replacement teeth or a bridge that screws or cements into the posts.
With good oral hygiene, dental implants can last for 20 years or more without the need for replacement. Dental implants are often a popular choice for people who have only one or two teeth missing, but they can be an alternative to dentures if you have several missing teeth. As long as your gums and jaw are healthy, two or more implants can serve as a base of support for several replacement teeth.
Some Questions to Ask:
- How healthy is my mouth?
Your oral health is the primary factor that determines which treatments are even possible. While dentures are a viable solution for virtually everyone, dental implants are only recommended for individuals with a strong jaw and healthy gums due to the invasive surgery required for the procedure.
- What does my budget allow?
Because surgery is involved, dental implants are more expensive than dentures, but are a more permanent solution. A complete set of dentures will be much more affordable, but usually requires reshaping or replacement over time. If only one or two teeth are missing, partial dentures could be an alternative, and this is even less expensive.
- Am I willing to undergo surgery?
Neither procedure happens overnight, but dental implants do require surgery and a longer treatment period. While dentures can take up to several weeks from point of examination to impressions, molding and fitting, dental implants require drilling into the jaw and healing time for the implant to fuse with the bone. It can also take up to several months before the prosthetic is fixed onto the implant.
Initial discomfort is not uncommon for both procedures, as your mouth gets acclimated to its new teeth.
- How much does maintenance matter?
Dental implants require minimal care aside from regular brushing and flossing, which is a big advantage of this treatment. Dentures, however, can cause infection and decay in other teeth if improperly fitted and/or if proper hygiene is not followed. Regular rinsing, brushing and soaking dentures overnight are additional steps you will need to add to your daily routine. Other issues that often challenge patients with dentures are damaged clasps, cracks, as well as looseness due to gradual bone loss.
- Are the cosmetic differences that come with implants worth it for me?
While everyone has a different experience with dentures, common complaints include clicking noises, constant shifting or slipping (which can impair chewing and speech), a difference in taste, and bad breath.
Dental implants, on the other hand, restore the ability to chew and speak as efficiently as one would with natural teeth, without the bulky feeling commonly reported by patients with dentures. For those who want to get closer to real teeth in terms of form, function and comfort, this more than justifies the investment required for dental implants.
Regardless of which treatment you choose, replacing missing teeth boosts your oral health, improves your smile, and can help increase your confidence. Get further guidance and details on each procedure during your next check-up, or consider scheduling a separate appointment altogether for an in-depth consultation.
Sources: Perio.org, WebMD.com, OralB.com