Dental prosthesis devices replace or repair missing or damaged teeth. They can do much more than improve your smile. A missing tooth can affect your ability to chew and raise your risk of gum disease. A missing tooth can also affect the bone health of the jaw and put other teeth at risk.
There are several types of fixed dental appliances, such as crowns and implants, and removable devices, including full or partial dentures, which can be taken out as needed.
In this article, we review five types of dental prosthesis devices so that you can have an informed discussion with your dentist about which one might be best for you.
A dental crown is a new covering for a damaged tooth.
A crown may be made of metal or porcelain. Crowns tend to be good long-term solutions for teeth that have been chipped, cracked, or worn down. But teeth that require a significant amount of restoration are at much higher risk for failure, according to a 2018 study in the
Getting a crown often requires two appointments. In a typical process for a dental crown, a dentist will:
- Get a soft mold of your teeth.
- Fill any cavities in the damaged tooth (if necessary).
- Trim the tooth to prepare it for receiving a crown.
- Place a temporary crown on the tooth while a permanent crown is made in a lab.
- After a few weeks, place a permanent crown that is cemented in place.
Dental practices that can make crowns on-site may offer same-day crowns.
Crowns are considered a relatively permanent solution. Once a crown is in place, it should last 5 to 15 years or even longer if maintained properly. You should brush and floss a tooth with a crown as you would any other tooth.
A crown can crack or chip over time, or the cement holding it in place can soften. This can allow bacteria to move in and infect the tooth.
One option to replace a missing tooth is a dental implant. This type of prosthesis is placed into the jawbone and held in place as new bone material forms around it.
Here’s the typical procedure for a dental implant:
- An implant (a screwlike device) is first inserted in the jawbone.
- The dentist may add an abutment that holds the crown. If the bone around the implant needs to heal first, the abutment will be added a few months later.
- A crown is cemented to the abutment to match surrounding teeth.
But while implants are becoming more widely used, they can have some mechanical, technical, and biological
- screw loosening
- cement failure
- fractured porcelain
- complications in the soft tissue or bone around the implant
The decision to choose implants or dentures may come down to cost and whether there is enough bone in which to place an implant.
Cost is also an important factor in dental implants. An implant may cost as much as $1,600 to $3,000 just for the implant. Then, a crown and a possible abutment could be another $1,500 to $3,000. By comparison, the American Dental Association reports that complete upper or lower dentures cost about $1,600. These costs also depend on your location.
When one or more teeth are missing, a dental bridge is a compromise between dentures and implants.
As the name implies, a dental bridge is meant to bridge a gap left by missing teeth. A bridge is usually anchored to natural teeth at both ends of the gap and may be made of one or more false teeth called pontics. In some cases, a bridge may be attached to an implant for greater security and stability.
A bridge is often made of porcelain to look like natural teeth and must be brushed and flossed regularly. Special flossing aids called threaders may be necessary to get floss between the bridge and the gum line.
Here’s the typical process for getting a bridge:
- At the first appointment, the anchor teeth on either side of the bridge are filed into shape and a mold is made of your mouth. A temporary bridge may be made to fill in the gap while a permanent one is made within a couple of weeks.
- At the second appointment, the permanent bridge is fitted into place. Any necessary minor adjustments are made so that the bridge looks natural and works with your natural bite. The bridge is then cemented into place.
A well-made bridge can last for decades, but 5 to 15 years is a reasonable expectation.
Costs for a bridge can range from $500 per pontic to $1,200 or more. This cost doesn’t include the cost of a crown, which alone can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,500 per tooth. Like other dental prothesis devices, these costs depend on your location.
Dentures are prosthetic devices that fit snugly against the gums and look and function as natural teeth. They’re also referred to as false teeth.
The extent of tooth loss and your preference will help determine what kind of dentures are best for you. The most common types of dentures include:
- Complete dentures replace all of your teeth and must be removed daily for cleaning.
- Removable partial dentures replace some but not all of your teeth.
- Fixed partial dentures are also known as implant-supported bridges.
- Implant-retained dentures are affixed to implants but must be removed daily for cleaning (also called snap-in dentures).
Another type of denture is called a flipper. These are temporary partial dentures replacing one or two teeth. They are made of less durable materials than regular partial dentures since they are meant to be used for a short time.
Veneers can help improve the color and appearance of natural teeth by covering them with a thin, natural-looking shell.
Here’s the typical process for getting a veneer:
- The dentist will grind enamel off your teeth and take a mold of your mouth.
- Using the mold, laboratory technicians will make your veneers out of porcelain or a resin-composite material. The process may take a couple of weeks.
- Veneers are then cemented to your teeth. An ultraviolet light is used to quickly harden cement that keeps veneers attached to your teeth.
You need to have relatively healthy teeth to support a veneer. Veneers can last 10 to 15 years before needing to be replaced.
Veneers range in price from about $925 to $2,500 per tooth.
A dental prosthetic is useful in providing one or more of the following benefits:
- improving the appearance of your teeth, boosting confidence and self-esteem
- improving your ability to chew, allowing you to consume a healthy diet
- supporting the health and strength of the jawbone, supporting the strength of other teeth
- protecting against gum disease that can lead to serious health problems
See a dentist soon if you have just lost a tooth or have had a missing tooth for some time. A missing tooth can contribute to surrounding bone loss and raise the risk of gum disease. Both can affect your overall oral health. The longer you wait, the more extensive and irreversible the damage can be.
Other symptoms that should prompt a conversation with a dentist about prosthetic solutions include:
- a cracked, chipped or worn tooth
- bleeding or sore gums
- tooth sensitivity or pain
- anything about the color or appearance of your teeth that bothers you
Getting a dental prosthesis device can be a life-changing decision. A dental prosthesis can improve your smile and how you feel about your appearance, improve your oral health, and avoid problems related to nutrition, digestion, gum disease, and the loss of jawbone material.
See a dentist to begin finding the right prosthetic solution for your dental needs and decide which may be best for your health and your budget.