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Alternatives to Dental Implants
If you are considering dental implants, you should also be aware of the alternatives available. Knowing your options will allow you to make an informed decision. Call our office to schedule a consultation so we can better determine which of these options may work for you. We can also answer questions regarding costs, healing time, and long-term prognosis of each option.
When you are missing a single tooth, a bridge is the most common alternative to a dental implant. Like the name implies, a bridge is a prosthetic device that spans the gap between the adjacent teeth on either side. Crowns anchor the bridge, and the piece in the middle is molded to look like a natural tooth. To create the bridge, we must first recontour the adjacent teeth so they can be crowned. Then we take an impression, which we use to create a model of what the complete bridge should look like.
Bridges are generally less expensive than implants, but the drawback is the need to crown the adjacent teeth. If those teeth are otherwise healthy, we are altering them unnecessarily, except for the sake of the bridge. With proper care and hygiene, you can expect bridges to last 10-15 years on average.
When several teeth in the same area are missing or damaged, your next best option after implants is a partial. A partial, or “partial denture,” is a prosthetic piece that takes the place of the missing natural teeth. With a partial, we can preserve all healthy teeth, and custom create the prosthetic to replace only the teeth we need to.
Partials are fully removable. The structure is attached to a metal frame, which hooks onto your natural teeth. The entire prosthetic must be properly maintained to ensure longevity and ongoing proper fit. When you are not wearing your partial, you must keep it submerged in a cleaning solution. Otherwise, it will dry out and become brittle, or it can crack or warp. Any of these conditions will require a new prosthetic.
If all your upper or lower teeth are gone or heavily damaged, and a partial is not sufficient, your next option is to consider dentures. Dentures can replace your upper or lower (or all) teeth. With an implant-supported denture, we create the prosthetic appliance to snap onto the implants, which ensure a secure fit. Traditional dentures are made the same way, but without the implant component.
Regardless of the type of denture, ongoing care is the same. Just as with partials, dentures must be stored in a cleaning solution when you are not wearing them. Also, as with any prosthetic, either type of denture will eventually need to be replaced. However, with an implant-supported option, since the implants help preserve the bone structure, patients are less likely to find issues with the fit. The implants themselves should last for up to 25 years.