Dental implants may be the new standard of dental care, but they aren’t the only tooth restoration option available to you. Apart from implants, missing teeth can also be replaced by a removable denture or with a dental bridge. These treatments have their benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to know how they compare to each other. Overall, in terms of quality of results and long-term success, dental implants are generally superior to the other two, but as always the best option for you will depend on factors that are unique to your oral health.
Removable Dentures: Benefits, Drawbacks, and How They Compare to Implants
Dentures come in many shapes and sizes, and some are implant-supported while other dentures are more flexible. The latter category is known as removable partial dentures. Partial dentures usually work by attaching a bridge onto a tray, which then attaches to crowns placed over the teeth adjacent to the gap. Their main benefit is that they can be less expensive than either implants or bridges. They also prevent other teeth from drifting into the empty space caused by the missing tooth, helping to keep your smile straight.
However, whereas implant fixtures can last a lifetime, a removable partial denture must be replaced every 7–10 years on average. Furthermore, dentures do not protect you from jawbone deterioration and over time skin along the jawline may start to sag. Partial dentures can also make chewing and speaking uncomfortable, and over time they may begin to loosen and move around the mouth.
For patients who are not candidates for dental implants, dentures make a good alternative. However, candidates for implants tend to prefer them over partial dentures.
Advantages to Dentures:
- Least expensive of three options
- Prevent teeth from drifting
Disadvantages to Dentures:
- Increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease
- Do not look as natural when compared to other options
- May restrict speech
- Lesser longevity
Dental Bridges: Advantages, Disadvantages, and How They Compare
A dental bridge is a set of crowns that are permanently attached to adjacent teeth. On either side of the gap, called a pontic, each of the adjacent teeth are filed down and covered by a crown. The prosthesis, or the bridge, is then cemented in place. Their benefits include relatively low cost, their excellent functionality, and the shorter treatment length.
Advantages to Bridges:
- Less expensive than implants
- Natural-looking and functioning
- Stable and fixed
- Shorter treatment length
Disadvantages to Bridges:
- Lesser longevity than dental implants
- Require grinding down adjacent teeth
- Can increase the risk of dental infection