The Best Alternatives to a Full Set of Dentures

by sasha der avanessian


Missing a few teeth can make you feel very self-conscious. You might refrain from smiling and laughing while out in public, and if the problem is really bad, it can have a seriously detrimental effect on your mental and emotional health. It seems crazy to suggest that something as simple as a smile can increase your confidence, decrease your anxiety, and make your life easier, but that’s exactly how many people feel when they have missing teeth. 

If you’re in that position, dentures might be near the top of your list. They can replace all of your existing teeth, swapping decayed nibs for a gleaming new set of pearly whites. But dentures have been given a bad rep and have been wrongly associated with senility and other less favorable aspects of growing old. 

The truth is, there is no shame in wearing dentures and for many individuals, they are the best solution by far. However, if you don’t feel like you’re ready to take that step, there are a few alternatives to a full set of dentures that can give you back your winning smile and help you regain your confidence.  

Partial Dentures 

You don’t need to have lost all of your teeth to get dentures, nor do you need to have your remaining teeth removed. Partial dentures are designed to fit around your existing teeth. You won’t need any painful or costly extractions and you can keep the teeth that you have, assuming they are healthy. 

Your dentist will match the fake teeth in your partial dentures to complement the shade of your real teeth, and if they do a good job, you won’t be able to tell the difference. Your dentures can be held in place by your existing teeth and you can get a secure fit without worrying about adhesive. 

There are a few different options for partial dentures. 

On the one hand, you have removable partial dentures that work just like the full dentures you’re trying to avoid. You can take them out, clean them, and replace them as needed. These dentures can be made from a cast metal framework, which is the most common type, or a flexible plastic material. 

You can also opt for a temporary partial denture, known as a Flipper. These are made from an acrylic base and often come with metal clasps. They are the least expensive, but they are also the weakest and the most uncomfortable. These dentures are a good option if you need a quick fix and don’t have a large budget, but they’re not the best long-term solution. 

On the other hand, you have fixed partial dentures, which are also known as fixed bridges. Fixed partial dentures are not designed to be removed and essentially install multiple crowns in your mouth at the same time. They can be made from a variety of different materials and are designed to support a variety of different teeth. 

Fixed partial dentures are often held in place by dental crowns and can also be bonded to existing teeth. 

Dental Implants

Implants are not advised if you have a lot of missing teeth, as you’ll need extensive and expensive work, but if you’re missing a few, they could be a viable alternative to partial dentures. And if you have the money and want to avoid dentures at all costs, it’s definitely worth taking the plunge. 

Implants are titanium screws that are drilled through your gums and into your jaw bone. A synthetic tooth is then added to the top of the screw, ensuring it stays in place just like a real tooth would. 

Implants are strong, as those metal roots are just as good as the real thing. However, they are not without their problems. 

Firstly, if you have a fear of the dentist and extensive dental work, then getting fitted for numerous implants will be like your worst nightmare realized. It may take several hours and several appointments to get all of them fitted, and there’s going to be a lot of drilling and discomfort, not to mention a large bill at the end. 

Secondly, you’ll need to have strong bones for the implants to work, and your dentist will run some preliminary tests to make sure you’re a suitable candidate. If not, they can do some bone grafts, but this is when the process becomes a little more complicated. 

Implant-Supported Dentures 

Also known as “snap-in dentures”, implant-supported dentures combine the stability of implants with the complete solution that dentures provide. The result is a set of complete dentures that won’t move around in your mouth, fall out when you’re eating, or require copious amounts of denture adhesive. 

They can still be removed and cleaned as needed, but they’re much less likely to pop out when you don’t want them to. 

If that’s the case, then why aren’t all dentures supported by implants and why doesn’t everyone have them? There are a number of reasons, but primarily, it comes down to cost and complications. 

Imagine, for instance, that you have half a dozen rotten teeth in your mouth, along with receding gums from a lifetime of neglect. You’re scared of the dentist, you don’t have a lot of money, and those things have combined to keep you well away from the dentist chair. 

When you finally bite the bullet and opt for implant-supported dentures, you’re faced with the horrifying realization that your remaining teeth will be pulled, bone grafts will be performed to prepare your jaw bone, titanium screws will be drilled into your gums and bone, and then you’ll be fitted for dentures. 

It’s costly, time-consuming, and deathly uncomfortable for anyone who has been avoiding even the smallest check-ups out of fear. 

You can reduce the cost of implant-supported dentures by getting fewer implants. The more of these that are added, the higher the cost and the greater the stability.  

Speak to your dentist about snap-in dentures to see if this is a viable option for you. It’s not something they will take lightly, and they’ll conduct X-rays and examinations to guarantee that you’re ready before they begin. 

Crowns

Dental crowns are basically fake teeth that fit over your real teeth. They are often used to fill cavities that are too big for fillings or to replace cracked, broken, and otherwise damaged teeth. If you don’t have many teeth left in your mouth then dental crowns are probably out of the question, but if you have most of your remaining teeth and just want to restore your smile, they can definitely be considered. 

Dental crowns allow you to keep most of your tooth and the root, which means they won’t need to be extracted like they are with dentures and implants. They can be made from a host of different materials, including porcelain, ceramic, composite, and even metal, and they tend to be very strong and sturdy, allowing you to eat, drink, and chat just like you would with real teeth. 

The cost of crowns can differ considerably, ranging from a low of around $700 to a high of around $2,000 per tooth. The actual price will depend on a number of factors, including the type of tooth that is being replaced, the type of material being used, and how much existing damage there is. 

They won’t last forever and are prone to breaking and falling off, but generally, they will last for many years and allow you to live normally during that time. 

Veneers 

Veneers are the preferred choice of celebrities, all of whom seem to opt for a row of porcelain whites as soon as they get their first big record deal, publishing contract, or TV show. 

Veneers are thin slithers of porcelain that fit over the tooth. They can be colored to look like real teeth, but they are often the whitest white—that seems to be the preferred shade. The price of veneers varies greatly but can cost upwards of $1,000 per tooth, with some dentists charging over $2,500. 

You can either have the caps fitted over your teeth as they are now, or you can opt for a more permanent option, in which case your teeth will be ground down to provide more room for the veneers. The latter option produces the best results, but it also requires the most work and causes the most problems. 

After all, if you lose your veneer, your semi-destroyed tooth will be exposed, and the surface may be rough, uncomfortable, and unsightly. Veneers, like all cosmetic dental work, don’t last forever so they will fall off, they will break, and at some point, you’ll see the damage underneath. 

Veneers are a good option if you have strong but discolored and decaying teeth. If your gums have receded, your teeth are missing and destroyed, and you don’t have a lot of money in your budget, you will be better off with one of the other options on this list.  

Don’t be tempted by the glimmering light of those beautiful veneers—they might work for Simon Cowell, Ben Affleck, and other superstars, but they’re not suitable for everyone. 

What is the Cheapest Option? 

It’s not easy to define the “cheapest” option, because it really all depends on your situation and your needs.  

For example, a single crown will likely be a lot cheaper than a full set of dentures or multiple implants, but if you have several missing teeth, that doesn’t really mean much to you. A partial set will likely cost less than a full set (although the difference isn’t as substantial as you might expect) and snap-in dentures cost more than pretty much all of the options we have covered. 

The majority of individuals will find that a full set of dentures is one of the cheapest and most cost-effective options, especially when compared to multiple implants/crowns or even to half a dozen veneers. 

Just remember, there are a few extraneous costs that you need to consider when thinking about a full set of dentures, including: 

  • Examinations: Your dentist will need to conduct some preliminary examinations to assess the state of your mouth and determine if you’re a good fit. Where dentures are concerned, these assessments are usually very brief and cheap, but if you’re thinking about snap-in dentures, they will need to perform X-rays to assess bone strength. 
  • Extractions: If you have multiple teeth remaining and they have all rotten or exposed their roots, they will need to be pulled. It doesn’t matter how decayed they are and how easy it is to pull them; your dentist will still charge you for the individual extractions and it could cost you upwards of $100 per tooth. If surgical intervention is required (as is the case with impacted teeth) then that cost can rise to between $200 and $600 per tooth. 
  • Immediate Dentures: Your dentures need to be sent away to be made. They can’t simply be purchased off the shelf, and your dentist will need to take some molds, send them away, and ensure they are a perfect fit and that they look just like the real thing. This has to happen after your teeth have been extracted, and if you’re not keen on the idea of walking around without any teeth, you can opt for a pair of immediate dentures. Although helpful, these dentures are also expensive and could add hundreds of dollars to the overall price. 
  • Quality: Dentures don’t come as a one-size-fits-all. They can be made from a wide variety of materials, including acrylics, metals, plastics, and more. Like a work of art, they need to be sculpted and finished with care to ensure they look as real as they possibly can. If you want the best artists and the best materials, you’ll need to cough up the big bucks. 
  • Checkups and Repairs: Many dentists will tweak your dentures completely free of charge and offer a certain number of checkups in the initial price. These are to be expected, as the gums change shape with age. However, there is a limit to what they can do and how many times they will do it, and that guarantee will likely stop if you crack the teeth or break the mechanisms. 

Summary: Getting Help with Denture Alternatives 

As noted already, there is nothing wrong with wearing a set of dentures! In fact, if you speak with your dentist about getting a set of dentures fitted, you may discover that your fears are completely unfounded. 

For example, many people who are averse to dentures are worried about the following: 

  • They Won’t Look Real: When done properly, dentures often look just like a real set of teeth and certainly look as good as a full set of veneers or multiple crowns. 
  • The Process Will Hurt: If your teeth are rotten, they may need to be removed before the dentures are fitted. But unless they are impacted, this process shouldn’t hurt. Most teeth extracted for dentures are diseased and weak, and so they are easy to extract. What’s more, you will be given a local anesthetic so that you don’t feel anything except for the initial prick of the needle. 
  • They Will be Expensive: Although this is definitely a valid concern, it’s much more expensive to get a mouthful of crowns, and if you keep putting it off and avoiding the inevitable, you may end up wasting a lot more money in checkups, fillings, extractions, root canals, and other such treatments. 
  • I Need to be Toothless for Many Weeks: It’s true that a full set of dentures can take a number of weeks to manufacture, but you don’t need to be toothless throughout that time. Your dentist can fit you with a set of temporary dentures, giving you an immediate smile and protecting your gums while they heal. 
  • They’re Difficult to Maintain: You only need to rinse your dentures after you eat and then soak them overnight. Generally, you will spend less time cleaning and maintaining dentures than you will a full set of real teeth. 
  • I’m Scared of the Dentist: If you have dentophobia, any kind of major surgery and any lengthy process will seem like a pretty terrifying prospect. But it’s much better than the alternative, which is to let your remaining teeth decay and leave you in agony. Dentures are relatively simple to fit once you get over those initial extractions and anxieties. 

If you’re not sure which of the aforementioned alternatives is right for you, your dentist can help you. Contrary to what you might believe, they are not solely interested in getting your money and they are definitely not trigger happy about pulling teeth. Dentists will often do all they can to save your real teeth and look for the most aesthetically pleasing long-term solution. 

If they don’t think that full dentures are right for you, they will recommend some alternatives and help you choose the best one. If they state that it’s time to get those dentures, then maybe you need to take the leap and follow their advice.

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