Alternatives to Dental Implants: Pros and Cons
When it comes to repairing an unsightly smile, most of us would consider just about any option. Our smiles are often the first impressions we make on others, the business card we carry on our face, and the thing that makes other people initially take notice of us. Nothing can be more crushing to one’s self-confidence than a damaged set of teeth, discolored past the point of any promises from a drugstore whitening paste. In addition to cracked or chipped teeth, there is the added horror of teeth that have gone missing altogether!
Beyond the cosmetic issues, there are challenges associated with damaged teeth that affect every part of our daily lives. Eating and talking with damaged or missing teeth can be an extremely unpleasant process for anyone. You may take for granted that you can do these simple things daily—until suddenly your teeth are damaged past the point of repair or missing. Suddenly, your favorite meal may be out of reach, your go-to movie candy is an impossibility, or simply chatting with friends is now a burden and a confidence crusher.
The good news is there are a number of options available to those wishing to improve their smiles. A dental bridge, a fixed bridge, a resin-bonded bridge, a partial denture, the dental crown, traditional dentures, mini dental implants via an implant post, and other dental implant treatment are just some of the options out there. However, there is also a wide range of price tags with these treatment options and they each come with their own sets of pros and cons. Also, as is the case with almost any dental work, they’re going to come with some degree of short-term pain as well.
But, as they say…no pain, no gain! If you want to regain a winning, megawatt smile, the short-term discomfort from a dental procedure will be completely worth it.
Since dental implants are not a viable option for everyone (based on the time and costs involved) we will explore some alternatives and the pros and cons of each.
Dentures are a common solution for those with missing or damaged teeth, and they can provide a cosmetic benefit and restore confidence. The benefits of wearing dentures are greatest in terms of the cosmetic appeal, as dentures are not a perfect solution or a true “substitute” for teeth. They come with a few unfortunate drawbacks or cons:
– They are not permanently attached and can easily come out
– They can cause sores in the mouth and can also be uncomfortable to wear
– They can’t stand up to all foods: you probably don’t want to bite into a crisp apple with dentures
– Unlike implants, dentures can’t prevent atrophy of the jaw and the wearer’s face shape may eventually change
– If not cleaned properly, dentures can lead to infection. They can also lead to something rather unfortunate known as “denture breath!”
– The maintenance associated with dentures can be frustrating, as they may need to be relined often and refitted at least every five years, if not sooner
Still, dentures ARE an important option to consider, especially when all teeth are missing and implants are too costly— or the patient is not a candidate for implants for other reasons. Some jawbones simply cannot support dental implants and your dentist will be able to advise you if this is the case.
Partial dentures are an option when there are only a few teeth missing. Rather than wearing a full set of dentures, you can opt for a partial set, which uses metal clasps to attach to your natural teeth. Like full dentures, they provide some “cosmetic relief” by filling in gaps for the wearer, but they do have some drawbacks as well. Essentially, they include most of the same “cons” on the list above, though partial dentures are less likely to play a role in face shape changing.
Bridges serve as an artificial replacement for a tooth and they are attached to natural teeth on either side. They are a popular option over regular dentures because they provide more stability, and they are custom fitted for a patient. Additionally, they are made of durable porcelain and can be created to match the patient’s natural teeth. This makes bridges an especially good choice in terms of the cosmetic benefit and the desire to improve or restore one’s smile. Still, as it is the case with dentures, bridges can fall short of dental implants and have a few cons:
– They may require the removal of additional natural teeth
– They can create pressure on the surrounding teeth
– They are only an option for a few missing teeth, not an entire mouth (which would require full dentures or dental implants)
If you consider dentures as an option for missing teeth, you will also be faced with a choice of “conventional” or “immediate” dentures. Once your teeth are removed, you will need to wait approximately 8 weeks for conventional dentures so the gum tissue can heal.
Since many people do not want to be without teeth for this long, an option was developed for immediate dentures that can be placed as soon as the teeth are removed. However, it is important to bear in mind that gums and bones shrink over time, so the immediate dentures will inevitably have to be refitted.
Lastly, whether this is considered a pro or a con can be different for many people, but dentures are typically removed at night. This allows time for your gums to rest and also creates an opportunity for the normal stimulation and cleaning processes from your own saliva and tongue. The idea of permanent implants may be appealing for some people who don’t want to wake each morning and have to insert dentures and be reminded of their missing teeth.