Dental implant or Bridge?

Individual implant teeth or an implant supported bridge? Many people come to me with failing teeth. “Doc, my teeth are bad and I just want to get them out and replaced”, is a common presentation. They often have visited many dentists and received many opinions. They are confused by the information. Different practitioners with different backgrounds have given them varying answers to the question “How can I and how should I replace my teeth?”

With today’s technology there are many acceptable methods to replace the failing dentition. Among these are a removable full denture; a removable denture that is snapped on to 2-4 dental implants; a fixed bridge – one that can only be removed by your dentist and that is attached to 4 to 6 implants; and individual teeth placed on individual implants.

To simplify, I will list them:

  •    Denture
  •    Denture on implants
  •    Bridge on implants
  •    Individual teeth on implants

The price increases roughly in that order as well. There are variables that may affect the price but ball park figures for all of the upper or lower teeth, including the implants when mentioned are the following, referencing the descriptions above:

  •     $2200 – $3000 per arch. Keep in mind that this is essentially a piece of “plastic” or ceramic and plastic that’s held in the mouth by suction.
  •     $10,000 -$12,000 per arch. This is a bit more sophisticated piece of plastic that is snapped on to two to four implants. It has good retention and good function and is routinely removed for cleaning by the wearer.
  •     $25,000 per arch. This is a titanium and plastic or polymer resin fixed bridge that is attached to implants submerged in the mouth using tiny screws. It can often be inserted on the same day as the teeth are extracted. The technique is heavily marketed as “All-On-Four.” The drawbacks are that it is somewhat bulky, can be difficult to clean and prone to fractures. It also sometimes requires quite a bit of bone removal by the surgeon.
  •     $29,000. For this treatment, an individual implant and crown is inserted for each missing tooth. It’s by far the most like having your own teeth. Just brush and floss. Negatives are that only a few types or brands of implants are advised for this, and there’s a period of time (usually about four months) during which the patient must wear a removable denture.

All of the techniques can work, and work well. Patients should seek advice from a surgeon, restorative dentist or restorative/surgical team using board-certified practitioners who are well experienced in all of the techniques available. Because if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Diagnosis should be made clear, treatment options explained and final treatment tailored to meet the patient’s functional and cosmetic needs ,their physiology and with respect for practical financial considerations.