Replacing Missing Teeth: Treatment Options and Costs
Missing teeth can immediately impact your appearance and make you shy about your smile, as well as making it harder to chew and speak. However, they can also cause long-term issues for your dental health.
First of all, the gap formed by a missing tooth allows other teeth to become crooked and shift out of position, possibly changing your bite. This can make it harder to properly clean your teeth and lead to an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. When you are missing a tooth or several teeth, your jaw bone density will decrease. This may cause it to weaken and shrink, which over time can cause your facial muscles to droop and make you look older. Because every tooth affects the jawbone, even missing a back tooth can affect your overall appearance.
Luckily, there are numerous options for replacing missing teeth. These can restore your dental health, enhance your appearance, and improve your chewing and speaking. The best treatment will depend on your individual circumstances, but rest assured, with smile.com.au dental cover you'll save between 15% and 40% on all of your treatments when you visit an approved dentist. There are no waiting periods, benefit limits or treatment exclusions, so you can save on any and all replacement teeth you may need.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Missing Tooth?
Replacing Missing Teeth Cost Comparison
Regular patients pay
Example smile.com.au fees
(Could be less)
with smile.com.au dental cover, that's a saving of !
Source: ADA annual dental survey conducted in October 2018.
This example is a guide only. Your personal situation should be discussed with your approved dentist.
*There is no maximum fee for this item number. This fee will be reduced by 15% off the practice’s regular fee.
The Importance of Replacing Missing Teeth
You should always replace a missing tooth as soon as possible - both for your immediate well-being as well as to avoid the possibility of long-term complications developing. There are three main treatment options: dental implants, dental bridges, and dentures.
A dental implant is a method of affixing a crown, dental bridge, or permanent denture. It is the closest thing to a natural tooth that your dentist can provide and is widely regarded as the best solution for missing teeth. Although the whole apparatus is simply called a ‘dental implant’, it actually has three distinct components:
- The ‘implant’ itself, the small post which is fused into the jawbone to replicate a tooth root. It is usually made of titanium, but zirconia has also become available in recent times
- A metal, zirconia or porcelain ‘abutment’, which is attached to the implant to provide a foundation for the ‘crown’
- The ‘crown’ is the visible part, which looks like a tooth. It is usually made from metal or porcelain
What Is The Procedure For Getting A Dental Implant?
For a dental implant, you will need to visit a dentist who has been specially trained. Dental implant surgery is usually performed under local anaesthetic in a dentist’s chair.
In the gap where your tooth is missing, your dentist will fold back the gum. Then, they will drill a small hole in your jawbone and insert the implant post. The implant will be covered over with your gums and left to heal – this can take from five months to over a year, depending on factors such as your age, dental health, and the location in the jaw.
By the end of the healing period, the implant will have integrated with your bone and the abutment can be attached. Finally, a crown (or dental bridge or permanent denture) will be screwed or cemented onto the abutment and your implant will be finished. Follow-up appointments may be required for your dentist to check that everything is progressing correctly.
How Long Do Dental Implants Last?
The metal implant itself can last for a lifetime because it is fused with the actual jawbone. This makes it a great long-term solution. However, the lifespan of the crown component is shorter and generally lasts 10 to 15 years.
How Much Do They Cost?
The cost of dental implants will vary depending on several factors, including how many teeth need to be replaced and whether you require a bone graft or sinus lift. According to the national dental fee survey for 2020, a dental implant in Australia (item 012, 311, 631, 633, 661, 672) can cost up to $5,514 per tooth. If you require a bone graft or sinus lift, a single dental implant can cost up to $11,500. With smile.com.au dental cover, you save 15% to 40% off the price of dental implants.
For more information on dental implants, including detailed examples of the price of implants in your location, see our dental implants page.
Are Dental Implants Right For Me?
Your smile.com.au approved dentist will need to assess whether you have enough space for an implant and enough bone to anchor it. However, if not, they can help you to grow bone or graft it from elsewhere in your body. The desired location for an implant is a factor that can impact your suitability: generally, the further back in the mouth, the more complicated the procedure. Conditions including alcoholism, diabetes, and being a smoker can also make dental implants less viable, but you can always discuss your options with your smile.com.au approved dentist.
Advantages of Dental Implants
- Dental implants are the closest thing to a natural tooth that your dentist can provide
- They can be combined with other treatments, such as bridges or permanent dentures, to make them longer-lasting
- Implants do not affect any adjacent teeth
- They are very secure, and the risk of dislodgement is very low
- By engaging the jawbone itself, they help to prevent bone loss
- They are less obtrusive than dental bridges and removable dentures
- They can last for a long time, often for life
- They are widely seen as the best solution for missing teeth
Disadvantages of Dental Implants
- Getting dental implants involves a long recovery time before the crown, bridge, or permanent denture can be affixed
- Compared to other solutions for missing teeth, fewer people are suitable candidates for implants
- Implants can fail if they do not properly attach to the bone. However, they can usually be re-attempted in time
- Upfront, dental implants cost more than some other treatments
Dental bridges are a common solution for missing teeth. They consist of one or more false teeth known as ‘pontics’, which bridge a gap by attaching to the natural teeth on either side. If the adjacent natural teeth are too far apart or otherwise unsuitable, implants may be used instead. Bridges can be a good option for some patients but they present more potential disadvantages than dental implants.
Types Of Dental Bridges
There are several kinds of bridges that may be suitable, depending on your individual circumstances and desired result.
- Traditional bridges are the most popular type of bridge. They comprise one or more false teeth, or ‘pontics’, which bridge the gap of a missing tooth. They are held in place with dental crowns, which must be fitted to both of the adjacent natural teeth
- Cantilever bridges are similar to traditional bridges, but are only secured to a single adjacent tooth
- Composite bridges, also known as ‘Maryland bridges’, are an alternative to traditional and cantilever bridges. They consist of a pontic with metal or porcelain ‘wings’, which are bonded to the adjacent natural teeth using composite resin. Crowns are not involved, which means that no permanent alterations are made to the neighbouring teeth
What Is The Procedure For Getting A Dental Bridge?
The procedure for getting a dental bridge will depend on the type that you choose. For a traditional or cantilever bridge, your smile.com.au approved dentist will need to prepare the adjacent natural teeth for crowns. This involves removing their enamel, which is a permanent alteration: those teeth at the sides of the gap will always need crowns, even if you choose to remove the bridge. When the adjacent teeth have been prepared, the crowns of the bridge will be cemented onto them, and the bridge is finished.
However, in the case of composite bridges, crowns are not involved. The pontic of the bridge will have two ‘wings’, which will be cemented to the back of the adjacent teeth using composite resin. This means that no permanent alterations are made to the neighbouring teeth.
How Long Do Dental Bridges Last?
Dental bridges generally last from 5 to 15 years. Bridges that are secured to implants are usually the most durable, enjoying the longer lifespans of up to 15 years or more. Keep in mind that there are multiple different kinds of bridges, so it is difficult to give a universal estimate.
How Much Do They Cost?
The price of a dental bridge will vary depending on several factors, including the materials used, the complexity of placement, and how many pontics are needed. According to the national dental fee survey for 2020, the cost of a bridge in Australia can be up to $1,200 per tooth. In Australia, a two tooth cantilever dental bridge with a crown (items 575, 578x4, 615, 627, 643) can cost up to $4590. With smile.com.au dental cover, you save 15% to 40% off the price of dental bridges.
For more information on dental bridges, including detailed examples of the price of bridges in your location, see our dental bridges page.
Are Dental Bridges Right For Me?
Dental bridges depend on the strength of the adjacent natural teeth. If these are not viable, dental implants can be used instead, which are actually more durable. However, this will also involve the cost of the implants as an additional treatment.
Advantages of Dental Bridges
- Bridges can come in many forms to match your personal circumstances
- They do not depend on the strength of your jawbone
Disadvantages of Dental Bridges
- Bridges depend on the strength of the adjacent natural teeth. Implants may be used instead, but they involve extra costs
- Traditional and cantilever bridges are secured to the adjacent natural teeth using crowns, which means that their enamel must be removed. This is a permanent process, and the teeth will always need to be crowned
- The lifespan of a bridge is generally shorter than a dental implant’s; unless, of course, it has been secured using dental implants
- Cantilever bridges are only supported on one side, which can lead to ‘lever’ pressure. This has the potential to cause fractured teeth or loosened crowns
Dentures are fake teeth that are worn to replace missing teeth. Today's dentures are more natural-looking and comfortable than ever.
Types of Dentures
There are two main types of dentures - permanent and removable. These may come in either complete or partial form.
- Permanent dentures, also called ‘fixed’ or ‘implant retained’ dentures, are affixed to the jawbone using dental implants
- Removable dentures, also known as ‘conventional dentures’, are moulded and fitted to the patient’s mouth. They can be removed and cleaned. They can be a long-term option, but may also be used as an interim solution after tooth extractions
- Complete dentures, also known as ‘full dentures’, are an entire set of false teeth for patients who have lost of all of their natural teeth. They can be either permanent or removable
- Partial dentures fill gaps by attaching to your natural remaining teeth. They can be either permanent or removable
There are also ‘overdentures’ which are secured by implants but are still removable and ‘flippers’ which are a form of removable partial denture which can replace just a single tooth.
How Long Do Dentures Last?
A set of removable dentures generally should usually be replaced every five to ten years, while permanent dentures can last for life.
How Much Do They Cost?
The price of dentures is dependent on the type of false teeth you need and the materials used. For example, complete dentures will cost more than partial dentures, and chrome-plated dentures will cost more than acrylic. According to the 2017 national dental fee survey, a full upper and lower conventional denture (item 719) in Australia can cost up to $3,870. For either an upper or lower denture (not both) the cost can be up to $2,000. With smile.com.au dental cover, you save 15% to 40% off the price of dentures.
For more information on dentures, including detailed examples of the price of dentures in your location, see our dentures page.
Are Dentures Right For Me?
A permanent denture is a lifelong commitment, so you will need to be secure in your choice. They can also be quite costly due to the added cost of the dental implants. Removable dentures are more affordable, but they usually require regular cleaning and can become stained if they are not maintained correctly. You may or may not need to take them out when you sleep. These maintenance duties for removable dentures may be a nuisance to some patients.
A complete denture is an option if you have lost most or all of your teeth and a partial denture is suitable if you still have some natural teeth remaining. However, you may need x-rays to evaluate whether your existing teeth are strong enough to support a partial denture.
Advantages of Dentures
- Dentures can be tailored to every patient’s mouth
- Removable dentures can be a great interim solution, if you are not ready to commit to a permanent treatment such as dental implants
Disadvantages of Dentures
- Some patients find that wearing dentures is uncomfortable
- Dentures can move around when talking or eating
- Dentures can sometimes break, requiring repairs
- Some patients may find the regular cleaning and upkeep of removable dentures to be a nuisance
What Causes Missing Teeth?
Injury, tooth decay and gum disease are among the most common causes of missing teeth. Sports, particularly contact sports such as rugby, often lead to injury. However, there are any number of household accidents that can do the same.
Tooth decay and gum disease can antagonise the gum tissue supporting your teeth, which may cause them to loosen and fall out over time. There are other cases where your smile.com.au approved dentist may recommend tooth removal, such as a severe crack or infected pulp. A missing tooth can also be congenital, meaning that it results from genetic factors. Indeed, some missing teeth are hereditary and there are numerous specific conditions such as ectodermal dysplasia that are associated with missing teeth.
What Is The Cheapest Way To Replace Missing Teeth?
The cost of replacing missing teeth will depend on your personal circumstances - the prices provided in this article are a general guide, and we recommend you contact a smile.com.au approved dentist for a treatment plan.
Remember, it is essential that you choose the best dental care for your individual circumstances, regardless of price. Keep in mind that despite the upfront costs, getting the right treatment can prevent returns to the dentist, which may be more cost-effective in the long-term.
Can A Missing Tooth Regrow?
No part of a tooth can regrow, not even the root. You will always need to get professional dental treatment for a missing tooth.
Are There Temporary Options For Tooth Replacement?
If you are not ready to commit to a long-term solution, there are options to manage missing teeth in the interim. You may also want a temporary solution if you are getting dental implants during the healing period before the crown is affixed.
Dentists may suggest a composite bridge, which does not damage the adjacent teeth and can be removed when necessary. Another popular option is a removable partial denture, known as a ‘flipper’. This can be used to temporarily replace a single tooth or multiple teeth, by attaching to the existing natural teeth.
What Is The Best Treatment For Children With Missing Teeth?
Children and teenagers can lose their permanent teeth for the same reasons as adults and sport related injuries are a common cause. However, they may not always be eligible for the same solutions. Foremost, dental implants are rarely recommended for youths, despite being the preferred treatment for adults. This is because children’s jaws are still growing, which could cause the implant to shift out of its proper location over time. Traditional or cantilever bridges are not ideal for children either, because they cause permanent damage to healthy natural teeth.
For a child or teenager’s missing teeth, dentists will generally advocate a temporary option until dental implants can be provided in adulthood. The temporary options are ‘flipper’ dentures or composite bridges.
Can Veneers Replace Missing Teeth?
No, dental veneers are a cosmetic treatment which must be placed over an existing tooth, and they cannot replace missing teeth.
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