Alternatives to Dental Implants
While dental implants are often the preferred option by dentists to replace missing teeth, they are not always the most affordable option for patients, nor do they serve as the best solution for all situations. This article will describe two common alternatives to dental implants: dentures and bridges.
Dentures are false teeth, typically made of resin or porcelain, that rest in a device which can be removed and inserted into the mouth as necessary. Dentures can be used to replace anywhere from a single tooth to an entire mouthful, top and bottom. They are significantly less expensive than implants, but the savings to your wallet do come with costs to your quality of life.
Because they are not actually inserted into your gums, dentures are not as perfectly fit to your mouth as implants. This imperfect fit may lead to potentially embarrassing troubles with eating. Dentures also tend to affect the wearer’s speech, and though most people are able to learn to compensate, the dentures can stick from time to time and disrupt conversation without warning. Finally, your denture smile may look far from what you are used to, so dentures are not for the self-conscious.
Beyond the cosmetic effects, dentures also run the risk of bone deterioration. Without the pressure of teeth or implants on the gum, the jaw bone does not receive signals to engage in the usual remodeling process that our bones need to remain strong. Instead, it is slowly absorbed into the body, which leads to long term pain and loss of jaw function.
A bridge is a common affordable alternative to dental implants consisting of using adjacent teeth to support a porcelain or ceramic “pontic”, or false tooth. While a bridge can restore the cosmetic and functional loss that arises from a missing tooth, it does come with its own drawbacks.
First, in order to support the false tooth, the adjacent teeth must be ground down in order to fit the “bridge” which is used to keep the false tooth in place. This works overall, but is counterintuitive because it involves damaging healthy teeth in order preserve dental health elsewhere.
Additionally, just like dentures, a bridge is less desirable because it does not stimulate the gums in the same way implants do, and thus will eventually lead to bone deterioration and loss of jaw bone function.
Dentures and bridges can both solve the problems caused by missing teeth at a price that is much more attainable than dental implants. In the long run, however, you need to be aware of the negative side effects that could accompany either of these options.