In the United States alone, more than 120 million people are missing at least one of their teeth, explains the American College of Prosthodontists. Luckily, people who are missing teeth have many options for restoring their smile, among them partial dentures and dental bridges. What's the difference between these types of dental appliances, and how can you choose which one is best for you?
Partial Denture Basics
A partial denture is one type of appliance your dentist may recommend. With this type of dental appliance, the false teeth are supported by a metal framework. The metal framework attaches to the natural teeth on either side of the false teeth, somewhat like a retainer. You can easily remove the appliance at home, which will allow you to take it out at night and clean it thoroughly, explains the Canadian Dental Association (CDA).
The cost of this type of denture varies based on factors like the number of teeth involved, where you live and your dentist. The average cost ranges from $700 to $1,800 reports CostHelper. If you opt for a gold framework over the standard metal or acrylic, it's more expensive and could range from $2,000 up to $4,000.
Dentures are fragile, so you'll have to be very careful when you handle them. Since they're removable, you take out your partial dentures yourself to clean them. Denture cleaner, hand soap or mild dishwashing liquid can be used to clean your dentures, explains the American Dental Association. Brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush or a specialty denture brush is recommended, because you don't want to scratch the artificial teeth's surface. Be careful not to drop your dentures while you're brushing them as this could damage them. It may be safest to brush your partial denture over a sink filled with water or over a folded towel to prevent damage to it.
Additionally, your denture may be uncomfortable at first. It could put too much pressure on one area and cause a sore spot. If it is irritating your mouth, visit your dentist and they can adjust the fit.
Dental Bridge Basics
Dental bridges are another dental option for people with missing teeth. A bridge contains one or more false teeth that are fixed permanently to the natural teeth on both sides of the area that is missing teeth. To place a dental bridge, the dentist first prepares the healthy teeth on each side of the area missing teeth by filing the two healthy teeth down. Next, the dentist takes an impression of your teeth. With this impression, the artificial teeth are created, as well as the crowns that will fit over the healthy teeth. To place the bridge, the crowns are cemented onto the healthy teeth, reports the CDA. The procedure takes two separate visits.
Costs vary widely for dental bridges. Factors affecting the cost include the number of missing teeth, the type of bridge, the material of the bridge, where you live and your dentist. Dental bridges can cost anywhere from $600 for a single-tooth Maryland bridge and up to $12,000 for four-unit bridge with two false teeth and two anchor crowns, estimates CostHelper.
Even though you have artificial teeth, you still need to clean them just like you would your natural teeth. This means brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and flossing gently. It's also important to visit your dentist regularly so they can spot and treat problems before they affect your dental appliance or dental bridge. Over time, the fit of your bridge could change, and food particles could start getting trapped between the device and your gum tissue. If you don't take care of your oral health, tartar can build up and you may develop gum disease and general mouth irritation. It is important to brush and floss your dental bridge so it can last at least 10 years or longer, according to the CDA.
People who are missing some of their teeth have many options, including partial dentures and dental bridges. Talk to your dentist or prosthodontist to learn more about each option and which is best for your situation.