Dental Implant Alternative #1: No Tooth Replacement

Irvine dental implant patient showing off her smile

If you are facing the loss of a tooth or teeth, you might consider just not replacing your teeth. There are many problems with this. First, your remaining teeth will begin to drift in response to the empty spaces. They will also be subjected to increased force because there are fewer teeth to bear the weight of chewing. This can lead to broken or cracked teeth. It can also be hard to clean around tooth gaps, where large food particles can get trapped, increasing the risk of gum disease.

Dental Implant Alternative #2: Dentures

Dentures are false teeth set in a base that is designed to replicate the appearance of gums. Dentures mostly just sit on the gums, so they are not very secure. Attachment, such as it is, is given by hooks and clasps for partial dentures and/or mechanically by a large base that fits along the roof or floor of the mouth. Full dentures without dental implants depend on suction for attachment, which works better on the top where there is a large uninterrupted surface area for suction to work.

Partial dentures can help maintain spacing, and they can keep your teeth functioning, although they don’t usually function themselves for chewing. Full dentures are better for chewing than no teeth at all, but unless they’re secured by dental implants, they are not fully functional. When properly made, dentures can be attractive. All dentures can slip when talking, laughing, or eating, which can cause embarrassment. The jawbone will atrophy under dentures, and sometimes poorly fitting dentures can even speed tooth loss.

Dental Implant Alternative #3: Dental Bridges

Dental bridges, also called fixed partial dentures, are tooth replacement solutions where the false tooth is supported by dental crowns over neighboring teeth. Dental bridges can hold your teeth in their appropriate positions, and they work well for chewing and speaking. They are completely secure in your mouth, and you’ll never have to worry about them coming out of place.

Dental bridges do have limitations, though. They cannot be used for replacing large areas of missing teeth. Typically, they’re only effective for a single missing tooth surrounded by two healthy teeth. Those healthy teeth have to be modified to support the dental bridge, too, which can put them at risk. Dental bridges also don’t stimulate the jawbone and gums, which can then collapse under the bridge, leading to an unattractive appearance.

Dental Implant Alternative #4: Root Canal

If you haven’t yet had your tooth extracted, it can sometimes be saved with a root canal, also called an endodontic procedure. In a root canal, the living material is removed from the natural tooth and replaced with an inert filler. The tooth is then covered with a protective dental crown. The tooth now continues to function as before, except it no longer has the risk of getting infected and won’t cause any toothaches.

If you can save your natural tooth, you should always consider it. Root canals have a high success rate, comparable to dental implants. After a root canal, your tooth can last as long as or longer than a dental implant. It also preserves the option of getting a dental implant in the future. Unfortunately, a root canal is not always an option.

Are you experiencing tooth loss and want to know what alternatives? Please contact our Irvine implant & restorative dentistry team by calling (949) 551-5902.