Dental implants are a long-term way to protect missing teeth, but you may be looking for a cheaper option. Here are some of the most popular alternatives to dental implants, as well as what you need to know about their positive and negative aspects.
Alternative #1: No Treatment
Obviously, this is by far the cheapest option on the list. But it’s also more viable than many people realise. You don’t need to replace every missing tooth, so when it’s okay to leave it alone, you can save as much money as possible and move on with your life.
However, there are times when having no treatment can lead to long-term impacts, such as other teeth shifting out of place. As such, you should always talk with an expert before deciding to avoid treatment entirely.
Alternative #2: Adhesive Bridges
Sometimes known as Maryland bridges, adhesive bridges consist of one or more replacement teeth that are affixed to adjacent natural teeth using pieces of metal, often called wings. These wings are glued or cemented to adjacent teeth, providing firm and stable usage. As these are permanent additions, they’re very durable and allow for easy maintenance while still looking aesthetically pleasing.
However, while adhesive bridges don’t require surgery and are easy to install, they don’t work well for back teeth. They’re also not a great long-term replacement for teeth, so some people only use these as temporary fixtures while waiting for a permanent alternative. That said, they are a cheaper alternative to dental implants.
Alternative #3: Conventional Bridges
A conventional bridge is a setup that uses adjacent teeth to support the missing teeth, usually involving at least three teeth at a time. Once they’re aligned and crowned as one solid piece, they act as a permanent replacement for the missing tooth.
Conventional bridges work well in both the front and rear of the mouth and do not require surgery. That, combined with the excellent visual appeal and easy maintenance, makes conventional bridges a popular choice.
However, since these often require significant reductions in the supporting teeth to hold the bridge, it could lead to some damage over time. Conventional bridges are also somewhat more expensive than most alternatives to implants, although they still tend to be more affordable than dental implants themselves.
Also, failure on any part of a conventional bridge often means replacing the entire thing, leading to a noticeably more expensive repair or renewal in the future. This is why bridges are usually a poor choice if you eat a lot of harder, crunchy foods.
Though they are a cheaper alternative to dental implants, these potential costs can make them more expensive than other options.
Alternative 3b: Cantilever Bridge
The cantilever bridge is quite similar to the conventional bridge described above. However, it has one notable difference: it’s attached to teeth on just one side, rather than both sides like a traditional bridge.
This technique’s benefit is that you only need one natural tooth by the missing tooth gap, which is sometimes all you have to work with. However, this does tend to put a lot of pressure on the joint between the teeth, so it can be weaker than conventional bridges if you eat a lot of hard foods.
As long as you are careful with what you eat, cantilever bridges are usually cheaper than a conventional bridge and will provide a similar performance level.
Alternative #4: Removable Partial Denture
A removable partial denture is held in place by other teeth or by clasps that go around existing teeth. Some can also clamp onto a crown or a bridge designed to hold it, which offers some flexibility based on your unique needs.
These types of dentures are relatively affordable, mainly because they don’t require grinding down any existing teeth. However, they don’t tend to look as good as bridges, and any bone loss in the jaw area can affect the dentures’ overall stability.
The inherent instability of these dentures can also make it harder to speak and eat. If you work in a public-facing role, this probably isn’t a great option, even if it is affordable.
Alternative #5: Complete Dentures
Complete dentures can replace an entire upper or lower set of teeth, or even both if necessary. These are looser than most other alternatives, but they’re also relatively cheap because they’re simple to make and even easier to use.
However, total dentures have a variety of notable downsides. They can make it hard to chew some foods, they tend to shift around while in use, and they can create sore spots along the gums. They may also create a clicking sound. While these are affordable and viable if you don’t want to go through dental surgery, think carefully about the downsides before you buy.
Alternative #6: All-on-4
This technique is a little more complicated than some of the other cheap alternatives to dental implants. With an All-on-4, you get four implants in your jaw that support an entire row of replacement teeth. This is essentially like a mix of conventional bridges and partial dentures that’s designed to provide long-term stability when you need to replace a lot of teeth.
However, this technique could require removing several good teeth to support an All-on-4. It’s also more expensive than other options because it requires four full implants, which can be a problem if you’re trying to save money.
If you still have some good teeth, you may want to look at a bridge instead. Which technique is most viable depends on how many good teeth you have in your mouth, as well as where they are.
Are There Any Other Options?
That depends on your situation. Your dentist or surgeon may decide that a rare technique is the best choice for your particular situation, so be sure to discuss all available options with them.
Also, if you’re worried about costs, talk to your care provider about payment options. Many facilities are willing to accept deferred or slower repayment plans, which can make it significantly easier to fit implants, bridges, or any other technique into your budget. They can also recommend consumer-friendly loan programs or negotiate with your insurance provider.
It doesn’t hurt to ask, so don’t hesitate to inquire about your options when talking about your payment choices.