I’ve been told that dental implants are the best solution because I am missing several teeth. So, I’d like to learn more. But, I was also wondering if there are other options?
-Jerry in Washington
You are correct. In most cases, dental implants are the ideal treatment plan to replace missing teeth. They are a permanent solution and when they are placed properly, implants look, feel and function just like your natural teeth.
The dental implant acts like the tooth root and is surgically implanted into your jawbone. The implant stimulates the bone at the implant site and helps keep the bone healthy too. Because if the bone is not stimulated, it will reabsorb the minerals to be used elsewhere and bone loss will be the result.
Then, after a period of healing, a porcelain crown is placed directly onto the dental implant. The entire process can take up to a year.
Sometimes there are situations when a patient is not a dental implant candidate.
- If you don’t have enough bone at the implant site. (Sometimes, bone grafting can be done to rebuild the bone.)
- You suffered a recent heart attack or have ongoing heart conditions.
- If you’ve recently had a stroke.
- If you’re a cancer patient.
- If you are a smoker or drug user.
- If you suffer from psychiatric illness.
- Cannot afford them.
Generally speaking, if you are in good physical health, you should be a candidate.
Other Tooth Replacement Options
However, if you would like to consider other options beyond dental implants. You may be interested in the following alternatives.
Dental bridge – A bridge fills the gap between two healthy teeth and attaches to the surrounding teeth with a crown. The crowns are anchored into your health teeth and the false tooth spans the empty space. If the surrounding teeth already have decay, a dental bridge may be an alternative that will work for you. However, if the surrounding teeth are otherwise healthy, then the healthy tooth structure would be compromised for the preparation of the crown.
Dentures – If you are missing all your teeth on top or bottom, a full denture may be an option. This type of appliance is completely removable and usually made of acrylic. Dentures are the most affordable option. But, they come with other problems. Patients complain of discomfort, difficulty eating, they move around and eventually may fall out at embarrassing times. Also, bone loss will occur since nothing is anchoring them in place.
Implant-supported denture – Dental implants can be combined with a denture and help keep it in place. This is an option for an individual that is missing all their teeth. At this time, it sounds like you still have healthy teeth, so this is likely not the best option for you
Thank you for your question. Hopefully, it will help guide your next steps. Dr. Rick Lane is an implant dentist in Petaluma, CA. If you have further questions, please reach out. We will be happy to help you continue exploring your options.