7 Replacement Options for Missing Teeth

dental implant model

Missing a tooth or facing a tooth extraction? You’re not alone. In fact, the average adult aged 35 to 49 in the United States is missing seven teeth. Assuming maybe 4 of those “missing” teeth are due to a routine wisdom teeth extraction, that still leaves 3 teeth that are just missing, whether due to an accident, gum disease, or tooth decay.

Chances are there is someone you know who has had to replace missing teeth, though you might not be aware of it yourself. That’s because now many options for tooth replacement look like the natural tooth; you can’t tell from the person’s smile they ever lost a tooth.

There are several great options for tooth replacement. But you know one terrible option? Doing nothing about it. Leaving an empty root space in your jaw can lead to all sorts of problems. Your surrounding teeth will shift, causing issues with your bite and perhaps even leading to further tooth loss. Your jawbone also starts to literally disintegrate in that area. The longer you go without replacing a missing tooth, the harder it becomes to get permanent dental implants in the future, because to get permanent dental implants, you need a healthy jaw. So if you’ve waited to do anything about replacing your missing tooth, you may require dental bone grafting, which is when we try to rebuild the jawbone using other bone material in your body.

Here are 7 options for you to consider for tooth replacement. The right option depends on your budget, preferences and unique dental care needs.

1. Dental Implants

Dental implants are by far your best option for tooth replacement. That’s because dental implants look and function like natural teeth. We surgically attach a dental implant post into your jawbone. This is topped with a ceramic crown that looks like a natural tooth; it’s even shaded to match the color of your other teeth. The beauty of dental implants is they are a permanent solution to tooth replacement. Success rates for dental implants are 95%.

And yes, same day dental implants are possible — depending on the strength of your jawbone. Like we said, the longer you’ve gone without replacing the tooth, the more likely you’ll need a dental bone graft — which can make same day dental implants challenging. However, typically we’ll perform the initial dental implant surgery and then give the bone time to heal around the implanted “root” before attaching the crown.

There are two options for dental implants: titanium and zirconia. Titanium makes a great artificial root because the jawbone will grow around it and actually fuse to its surface. Titanium dental implants are the traditional and most common type of dental implant because they’re tried and true. A newer option is zirconia dental implants, which share many of the same properties as titanium, except they’re not metal. Zirconia is a ceramic, so it’s a great option for people who are allergic to metal.

Be aware that dental implants are expensive. They can cost thousands of dollars. Some insurance companies consider dental implants cosmetic and so may not cover the treatment.

2. Implant-Supported Bridges

Are you missing several teeth close together? Bridges supported by dental implants are a more affordable option than replacing each tooth with a dental implant. You receive a bridge that is held in place with dental implants on either side. This is a stronger, longer lasting option than dentures, but they aren’t designed to last forever. Eventually, they will need to be replaced. The reason this type of bridge isn’t completely permanent is because, while supported by dental implants at each end, the bridge itself sits on the gums. Since there is nothing rooted into your jaw in that area, other teeth may move and the jaw bone will degrade, as we discussed earlier.

3. Tooth Supported Bridge

As we mentioned, dental implants can get expensive. For a more affordable alternative, we can also introduce a bridge that is held in place with your existing teeth — no dental implants required. The teeth at either end of the area of missing teeth are ground down to fit the bridge correctly. Then, a crown is placed on those anchor teeth and cemented into place. You get the same natural look you’d have with a dental implant without the expense. Tooth-supported bridges are not a permanent tooth replacement, however, and will need to be adjusted and replaced overtime.

4. Removable Partial Dentures

Removable partial dentures are a simple, affordable option to replace missing teeth. Rather than a full set of dentures, partial dentures are designed to replace a few missing teeth that are next to each other. The dentures are clasped into place so that the false teeth are positioned in the right spots. You’ll of course need to remove the dentures at night, soak them, and clean them — just as you would a full set of dentures.

5. Flipper

A flipper is a partial denture with the ability to flip in and out of its position, hence the name. It is not attached to surrounding teeth and is not clasped into place. It’s lighter than a partial denture and also cheap. A flipper is a temporary measure, something you can use until a more permanent option is available or you can afford it.

6. Removable Complete Dentures

If you are missing all of your teeth, you might consider getting a full set of dentures. A full mouth reconstruction can be way too expensive for some people, so this is a low-cost and non-invasive alternative to dental implant treatment. You can have the appearance of natural teeth and be able to eat normally again.

Dentures are affixed via suction or an adhesive, and should be removed daily to be cleaned and disinfected. They can also don’t stop your mouth from shifting since there is no dental implant filling the empty root cavities. As your mouth changes, the dentures might not fit as tightly. Eventually, they’ll need to be resized and replaced.

7. Resin Bonded Bridge

Also known as a Maryland bridge or a Rochette bridge, a resin bonded bridge is designed to replace only the front teeth. That’s because it is fragile and cannot withstand the force of a full bite. A resin bonded bridge consists of two wings that are attached to the back of the abutment teeth on the tooth surfaces nearest to the tongue. The wings are attached to the replacement tooth or pontic.

You’ll need healthy and strong front teeth to support the new fake one. We may remove some tooth enamel to create a rougher surface for easier attachment.