Options for Replacing Missing Teeth: Beyond Implants

Last updated Tuesday, July 9th, 2024

Options for Replacing Missing Teeth: Beyond Implants

When it comes to replacing missing teeth, dental implants have one of the best track records. They maintain about a 97 percent success rate over a 10-year period.

That is impressive, but it does not mean that implants are right for every situation. In fact, many other, less invasive procedures may be preferable, given certain circumstances.

This article explains what those are. Keep reading to learn more about options for replacing missing teeth beyond implants. The information below can help you determine which one might be right for you.

Implant Basics

Since we are comparing alternatives, it is important to first understand how implants work and why they are so effective. There are many situations where they are the best choice, and for some good reasons.

Dental implants are made of a sturdy fixture, or “post,” that is surgically inserted into the jawbone. These use strong materials–such as titanium or ceramic — to provide a permanent base for fixed or removable replacement teeth.

An abutment connects to the implant fixture, which holds the replacement tooth, or “crown.” These are custom-made to match existing teeth.

Advantages of Dental Implants

There are several advantages of dental implants for replacing missing teeth. These are important to take into account, before considering the alternatives.


One of the biggest advantages of dental implants is that they create a natural feel that resembles the original teeth. You can expect implants to blend in seamlessly to enhance your smile.

Improved Oral Health

While the implant process is fairly intensive, the finished result is low maintenance. Implants are meant to resemble actual teeth in appearance and also function. This means they are easier to clean and take care of than many other options for replacing missing teeth.

Improved Oral Health

Implants can aid oral health. They stimulate the jawbone, which can prevent bone loss and preserve facial features. They also allow easier access between teeth, so flossing and brushing feels natural.

Natural Chewing and Speaking

This also translates to more natural chewing and speaking. Unlike dentures, implants will not slip or shift in your mouth.

You can enjoy eating without difficulty, discomfort, or pain. This can inadvertently improve nutrition and overall health.

Durability and Permanence

Another benefit of implants is that they are much more permanent and long-lasting than other options for replacing missing teeth.  As mentioned, they have a high success rate. With proper care, implants can last a lifetime.


A final benefit of implants is that, when you consider longevity, they are one of the most cost-effective tooth replacement options for replacing missing teeth. While the upfront costs can be higher, implants can be a more economical alternative to treatments that last a fraction of the time.

Disadvantages of Dental Implants

There are several disadvantages to dental implants for replacing missing teeth as well. Here are the main ones to consider.

More Invasive

Since implants require surgery, they are much more invasive than almost any alternative discussed below. While new innovations in implant technology and techniques limit risks, there is always a chance of infection and nerve damage.

Some patients need additional procedures, such as bone grafting, before they get implants. This can add to the complexity, time, and cost of the treatment when replacing missing teeth.

More Time Consuming

From the initial consultation to the final placement of the crown, implants can be much more time-consuming than other procedures for replacing missing teeth. You can expect many dental visits for both planning and follow-up.

It also means a longer recovery period, which can last many weeks to several months. That is because it takes time for the implant to fuse to the bone, a process known as osseointegration. While healing, patients will likely experience discomfort, swelling, and bruising.

High Upfront Cost

When replacing missing teeth, dental implants are quite expensive. The implants themselves are costly since they are custom-made. The associated costs of surgery also can drive the price up, especially if things like bone grafting are required.

As mentioned, when you consider their long lifespan, you can get more bang for your buck with implants. Regardless, the substantial upfront price tag could be a barrier for some patients, especially if their insurance covers little or none of the costs. Also, for people who do not benefit from the different advantages implants afford, the extra cost may be unnecessary.

Limited Suitability

Dental implants are not for everyone. There can be added risks for people with serious medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or gum disease.

While implants for replacing missing teeth are suitable for most adults, they are usually not preferred for children or anyone whose jawbone has not fully developed. Also, for adults of advanced age, the advantages of implants may not outweigh the intensity, time, and inconvenience of the procedure.

Non-Implant Options for Replacing Missing Teeth

There are many options for replacing missing teeth beyond implants. Here are the main ones to consider, along with the advantages and any drawbacks of each.

Dental Bridges

Bridges are one of the most common restorative dental treatments for replacing missing teeth. As the name suggests, they bridge the gap between existing teeth to fill in missing ones. Bridges can be used to replace one to four (side-by-side) teeth, but any one person can have many bridges in their mouth.

Dental Bridges Are an Alternative to Implants

Like implants, bridges have an abutment that supports the artificial tooth or teeth. However, they use adjacent teeth for support and do not require drilling into the jawbone. Artificial teeth, or “pontics,” are usually made of porcelain, gold, or metallic alloys.

Types of Bridges

There are different kinds of bridges. Traditional ones have pontics held in place by dental crowns that are cemented onto the abutment teeth. They are the sturdiest type and can even support molar replacement, but they sometimes require reshaping existing teeth.

Cantilever bridge treatments are similar to traditional bridges, except they have a supporting crown on only one tooth. They are less stable but a good option when only one supporting tooth is available.

Maryland bridges use a metal or porcelain framework that supports pontics and is bonded to the back of existing teeth. These are less durable than traditional bridges but do not require alterations to existing teeth.

Advantages of Bridges vs. Implants For Replacing Missing Teeth

Bridges are much less invasive than implants, as no surgery is required. While they usually require more than one appointment to complete, they do not have the time demands that implants do.

You can expect bridges to be completed in just a few weeks. This makes them preferable to implants for patients who have an immediate need. They are also suitable alternatives for people with insufficient bone density to support implants.

Recovery time and discomfort are minimal with bridges, especially compared to implants. Also, since there is no integration with the jawbone, the results are immediate.

You can expect bridges to be much more affordable than implants. Dental insurance will likely cover all or most of their costs.

Bridges will likely not have the lifespan of implants, but you can still expect them to last for a long time. They may need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years.


Dentures are a removable dental apparatus designed to replace missing teeth. They are both functional and aesthetic in that they perform and look like real teeth.

Dentures as an Alternative to Implants

Dentures are made from either porcelain or acrylic, which mimics teeth and gums. Porcelain dentures tend to last longer while acrylic ones are stronger and adhere more securely.

Dentures can last for a long time. However, they need to be cleaned and carefully handled to avoid damage. Also, gums and bone structure can change over time, so dentures need occasional adjustments to ensure the proper fit.

Types of Dentures

Dentures can come in different configurations. Partial dentures can replace some of the teeth, while “full” or “complete” dentures replace all the teeth on the upper or lower jaw.

Full dentures fit inside the mouth after all original teeth have been lost or extracted from the top or bottom (or both) of the mouth. This makes them slightly more invasive than bridges, in most situations.

Conventional dentures go in after all the remaining tissue has healed following tooth extraction. There are also “immediate” dentures that provide replacement during the healing process.

Advantages of Dentures Over Implants

Like bridges, dentures are minimally invasive. They do not involve surgery and therefore recovery time is minimal.

Dentures do not require the time commitment of implants. Beyond an initial consultation, you can expect there to be two fittings–one before fabrication and then a final one.

Dentures are far less expensive than implants. Partial dentures can run as little as a few hundred dollars. Even full premium dentures can be as little as $1,000 to $1,500.

Dentures will not last as long as permanent implants, but quality ones can look and function great for years. You can expect to get at least five to 10 years out of them.

Find Missing Teeth Solutions Near You

Now that you understand the many available options for replacing missing teeth, you can determine which one is right for you. An experienced dental surgeon can further advise you on the best choice based on your dental health needs and goals.

At Smiles By Hanna, we customize all care to the unique needs and concerns of each patient. We offer a variety of dental care services, including cosmetic, restorative, and general family dentistry. Read more about these options on our site or set up an appointment today to discuss them with our team.

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