In my opinion, dental implants are the best option for replacing your missing teeth. In fact, dental implants are the latest dental replacements dentistry can offer. However, even though they function and feel just like natural teeth and do not suffer from the weaknesses of the other options, they are expensive and are not affordable by everyone. Although, as per my thinking dental implants are still quite cost effective in view of the quality of life they permit. If, for some reason you cannot be given implants, or you do not want to choose implants, I am discussing some of the other teeth replacement options that you can consider:
Single tooth replacement: A single tooth can be replaced in the following manners
- Tooth supported bridge: The replacement tooth (pontic) is supported on crowns placed on healthy teeth on either side. It has been the most common replacement method for replacing single teeth when implants were not available. It has several disadvantages
- The two healthy teeth must be grinded to accommodate crowns to which the pontic will be attached. The teeth can weaken.
- These bridges do have as long a life as implant teeth, and need maintenance during their life time.
- Jaw bone around the empty socket tends to decay (resorb). With time depressions appear in the facial contours around that region.
- Removable partial dentures: The dentures sit on the gum, and take support by suction or adhesive. Grinding down of the adjacent teeth is not required. However, they are neither as stable nor as comfortable as dental implants. Dentures can also cause problems with speech and eating. Partial dentures are less expensive than implant-supported ceramic crowns.
- Maryland bridges or resin-bonded bridges are used where too much chewing stress is not expected, ie, in restoring a lost front tooth. Support is taken from adjacent teeth, those need not be grinded. The pontic simply bonded to the adjacent teeth. Obviously, a Maryland bridge is not as strong as the regular fixed bridge.
- Replacing multiple teeth: If you want to replace just one or two teeth a fixed bridge is possible as alternative to implants. Of course, it is not as good, and suffers from the limitations of the fixed bridge as If multiple teeth are to be replaced, a partial denture is the only alternative to implant supported replacement. It is not as expensive as implants, but is less convenient, allows bone resorption in the vacant tooth sockets, and will distort the facial contours over time. One must be careful with what one eats. The partial denture must be removed at night to allow the gum to ‘breathe’. The removed denture must be kept in a soaking solution. It must be handled carefully. It is brittle and may break or crack if it falls. It may also hamper speaking, smiling and eating.
- Replacing all teeth: The alternative to implants is the complete removable denture (conventional denture). The know-how for the complete removable denture is quite common. The denture is not expensive. However, it suffers from multiple drawbacks as for the partial removable dentures. Some of them are listed below:
- It sits on the gum and is held by adhesives or suction with the gum or palate. Hence, it can slip out at the most inopportune moments causing embarrassment.
- The choice of foods is limited. Hard stuff cannot be chewed.
- They do not look as natural as implants.
- They have limited life.
- Need to be removed at night.
- Must be soaked when not worn.
- Must be handled very carefully. They are brittle and can crack or break if dropped accidentally.
- Since the tooth sockets are vacant, bone resorption is possible. Loss of bone will distort facial features.