Alternatives to Dental Implants
We have talked about implants and getting the best retention results using 3-D radiography, but most patients cannot afford implants. Therefore, other options include a fixed bridge or a removable partial denture. The above options aren’t necessarily an ideal form of treatment, but they’re definitely a more affordable alternative.
A fixed bridge would be anchored by two or more existing teeth depending upon many missing teeth are being replaced. Once the bridge is cemented in place it is not removable. This has the ability to reproduce your natural teeth. To be anchored to the existing teeth, preparations have to be made on the anchor teeth, removing two millimeters or more of existing tooth structure. Flossing under the bridge once cemented in place will require floss threaders. Floss threaders have a loop on one end to thread the floss in and a stiff end to work under the bridge. Pull the stiff end through and the floss will follow.
The cost of a fixed bridge is usually around a $1000/tooth involved, so one missing tooth and two anchor teeth would be $3000. Two missing teeth and two anchor teeth would be $4000 vs. $4000 and $8000 for implants. Insurance usually covers a percentage of a bridge but not an implant. In retrospect, implants are more like natural teeth. With implants, no floss threaders are needed and no tooth preparation necessary. Bridges are close to natural teeth and are usually covered by insurance.
Another option is a removable partial denture. Replacing a single tooth would require no tooth preparation. This removable appliance is called a flipper, requiring retention of the existing teeth and soft tissue structures such as the palate. A partial denture replacing multiple teeth would require slight tooth alterations to the anchor teeth. Metal framework and clasps are required to hold the denture in place for optimum retention. Partial dentures are usually around $2000 no matter how many teeth you are replacing and flippers are usually around $1000. The downside to a removable partial denture is that it may be difficult to get used to. Most patients get accustomed to wearing partial dentures, few do not. Again, insurance usually covers a percentage of the cost. Hopefully, someday insurance will cover a larger portion of the cost of implants, the ideal treatment.