woman covering her mouth

Naturally your teeth are important to you. A smile is not only beautiful; it’s functional. Teeth can be easily taken for granted — until you’re missing one or more teeth. It’s easy to feel shame. How will the missing teeth affect your appearance and ability to eat the foods you love?

Any dentist or oral surgeon will tell you the worst thing you can do for a missing tooth is nothing. Fortunately, there are a number of options for tooth replacement. The right one for you depends on your unique situation, budget, and preferences. Here are 5 options for tooth replacement explained in detail.

Dental Implant

A dental implant is the most popular option for tooth replacement because it functions and looks every bit as good as a natural tooth. Dental implants are permanent. You might even forget the tooth is fake — you certainly won’t have to worry about it much.

But dental implants require an extensive procedure, whether you have one done by a local dentist or a specialized oral surgeon. Your exposed roots will have to be replaced by metal screws, ideally in your jawbone, though perhaps placed on the gumline or cheekbone if there isn’t enough jawbone to work with. The implant will need to heal until it is attached to an artificial tooth.

But dental implants are by far your most effective approach to tooth replacement that’s closest to the real thing.

Dental Implant Supported Bridge

A dental implant supported bridge is your best option if you are missing several teeth in a row. In this case, replacing each tooth with a dental implant would be exorbitantly expensive. Instead, a dentist or oral surgeon would create a row of teeth that attach to two dental implants located on either end. A bridge is every bit as effective and natural looking as a dental implant but is more affordable if you are considering multiple teeth replacements that are next to each other.

However, unlike dental implants, the bridge will need replacing at some point — it’s not permanent. But you don’t have to take it out at night — it continually sits in your mouth, screwed into your jawbone, closely resembling your natural teeth.

Tooth Supported Bridge

Need an even more affordable way to replace multiple teeth adjacent to each other? Consider a tooth supported bridge, in which the bridge is fitted on top of existing teeth, rather than being screwed via metal posts into your mouth. This approach is cheaper and doesn’t require invasive surgery. Crowns slip over existing teeth next to the missing tooth and are cemented in place.

The catch with this procedure is the adjacent tooth must be filed down to be fitted with crowns in order to avoid infection. Food can also slip under the fake teeth, so it’s important to thoroughly brush and floss to remove all excess debris. We’d also recommend mouthwash.

Resin Bonded Bridge

A resin bonded bridge is used only to replace your front teeth. This type of bridge is relatively fragile and won’t survive the brute force your backing teeth go through, but is fine for the front teeth. It consists of two wings that attach to the abutment teeth on the tooth surfaces nearest the tongue. The wings attach to the replacement tooth or pontic.

The bridge requires healthy and strong abutment teeth, but there’s little modification to your existing teeth. Occasionally, we may remove a small amount of tooth enamel or roughen the surface of the tooth to create a stronger bond, but it’s no biggie. This is a cheaper alternative to a fixed bridge. It also will allow you to speak normally and it will restore your appearance. You’ll have some chewing power. Eventually, the bridge may pop off your teeth and will need to be replaced.

Removable Denture

Can’t afford dental implants to replace your teeth? You might consider removable partial or full dentures as an alternative. A partial denture only contains one or a few teeth. A full denture replaces all your teeth. Both are clasped in place rather than surgically attached to your mouth.

This is by far the cheapest option for tooth replacement. The catch is you have to take them out at night. They also need to be cleaned with special denture cleaning agents and a denture brush. You should have your dentures inspected regularly by your dentist.