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The popularity of dental implants can sometimes make it feel like they are the only option for permanent teeth replacement. We look at some of the non-implant options that are available readily and the situations they excel in.

There is a good chance that you heard about dental implants when you walked into your dentist’s office looking for a permanent teeth replacement. The reasoning behind it is solid. Dental implants are the best option that patients have nowadays for a whole bunch of reasons. However, if you do not want to spend that much money or don’t like the idea of undergoing a surgical procedure or are maybe medically unfit to get dental implants [1], then there are other options that you can explore [2].

Here are some of the best non-implant permanent tooth replacement options.

Bridges

A bridge, in dentistry, refers to a fixed prosthesis that is supported by supporting teeth on either side of the missing area. Bridges are very popular and in fact probably the most popular method of replacing missing teeth because they straddle the middle way between dental implants and Removable dentures [3].

Patients who opt for a bridge will be required to come into the dental office between two and three times in most cases. The first appointment is going to be one where the dentist will grind your supporting teeth, in a process called crown preparation, so that the support unit of the bridge can fit comfortably on them [4].

Depending upon the complexity of the bridge, the next appointment may be for a trial or the final bridge may be cemented on that day itself.

This option has a lot going for it. Let us start with the advantages first.

Advantages of Dental Bridges

A bridge is relatively painless and in most cases does not require any anesthesia, blood loss or other kinds of painful pricks. The procedure is straightforward enough that it is done by both general dentists and specialists. This process has also been around for long enough that doctors are well aware of the long-term success, patient comfort and any complications that may arise [5].

There has also been a fantastic advance in the quality of the materials that are being used to make bridges. Dentistry has moved from metal bridges to metal-fused porcelain to all-porcelain bridges. These advancements have allowed bridges to be used with success in situations that were just not possible earlier [6].

For example, the use of all-porcelain bridges in the back areas of the mouth where the chewing forces are significantly higher than the front of the mouth was considered foolhardy. Not anymore. At the same time, the aesthetics of these bridges has improved remarkably to allow doctors to make an extremely lifelike prosthesis for the front teeth without any compromise in their strength.

The last reason why bridges are such a popular option is because of their cost. They are much less expensive than implants and so a much larger percentage of patients find them affordable for the benefits that they offer [7].

Disadvantages of Dental Bridges

Now for the bad part. A bridge requires the sacrifice of healthy tooth structure from at least two healthy teeth and possibly more as the number of teeth to be replaced keeps on increasing. This layer of the tooth that is removed is the enamel, which protects the tooth from everyday trauma in the mouth [8].

It has been found that a lot of supporting teeth can start to become sensitive after a few years, eventually requiring root canals [9].

The other major disadvantage is also the need for healthy, firm teeth on both sides of the missing teeth which is not a luxury that a lot of patients have. This limits the cases that can be replaced with just a bridge.

Also, while the bridges have become much better with time their longevity is still dependent on the health of the supporting teeth. If even one of them becomes compromised and needs to be removed, the entire bridge goes to waste [10].

Crowns  

Crowns, or "caps" as they are sometimes called, cover a single tooth. They are indicated for use after a root canal or in case of a tooth fracture. These crowns are independent units that are not attached to anything else.

Crowns are also made from the same materials that a bridge will be made so they have benefited from the same material advances and are very versatile to use [11]. Crowns require only one short sitting for the preparation, require no anesthesia and do not involve any pain or discomfort. Like all things, though, there are some advantages and disadvantages that need to be kept in mind.

Advantages of Dental Crowns

The biggest advantage of crowns is their versatility. They can be prepared on any tooth or even multiple separate teeth at the same time. Since they are designed to exist on only one tooth there is no question of sacrificing any other tooth for their purpose. The cost can vary greatly depending upon the kind of crown but they are quite affordable to most patients.

Disadvantage of Dental Crowns

Dental crowns are excellent at protecting a fractured or damaged tooth but cannot replace a missing tooth. Apart from this, however, they are excellent in the situations for which they are designed.

Conclusion

Plenty of non-implant permanent teeth replacement options that are available right now and so you are not necessarily out of luck if a dental implant is not a choice that you can make.