Laughing with joy, smiling with delight – these expressions can light up our lives. The challenge: if you have discolored, jagged, or missing teeth, you may hesitate to indulge in such pleasures. I know how it feels: due to various accidents (for example, rushing across an oil-slicked parking lot and then falling over a concrete parking block – on my face), bad genes (my parents both had notorious dental problems), and a nasty habit of grinding my teeth, I have a set of “choppers” that makes me cringe when I look in the mirror. A missing tooth, jagged teeth, discolored teeth – I’ve got all of those “not very pretty” dental miseries.
I would love to be able to afford dental implants, professional teeth whitening, and more. But even though I’m an expert at getting the most out of every penny, my budget doesn’t allow for such luxuries. So I asked a professional about other options.
Jeffrey Gross, DDS, FAGD, is an Ohio licensed general dentist who served as Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Periodontics, and teaches in the graduate periodontal program at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine in Cleveland, OH. I asked him about safe and effective alternatives for those of us who are missing teeth.
In my case, he offered as a possible option “a fixed bridge with crowns on the teeth adjacent to the missing teeth. It is made up of two crowns for the teeth on either side of the gap and a false tooth/teeth in between. The teeth on either side of the missing tooth are prepared for crowns, an impression is made, and the case is sent to a dental laboratory. The laboratory then makes the crowns and fastens a false tooth (teeth) between the two crowns – this is the bridge,” explained Dr. Gross.
A bridge has several advantages, according to this Ohio dentist. “It is fixed, stable, and feels like your own teeth. In most cases it can be made to look just like you never had a tooth missing.” However, you do need to “treat two teeth besides the one that was extracted,” and those other teeth “may otherwise be perfectly sound with nothing wrong,” he added.
Another option is a removable bridge, which has its own set of advantages and drawbacks. “It is a more economical way to replace missing teeth than a fixed bridge,” Dr. Gross noted. in addition, “you can replace multiple teeth with one appliance. If the span of missing teeth is three or more, or if there are not solid teeth on both sides of the missing teeth, a fixed bridge may not work.” it also may not be as aesthetically pleasing, because “clasps, usually wire clips, will be required to retain the removable partial, and it may not be possible or practical to entirely conceal those. There may be some discomfort with wearing removable hardware in your mouth, and it is not as stable as a bridge,” he cautioned.
Another alternative is a snap-in dental appliance called a Snap-on-Smile, according to Dr. Gross. It “fits over the teeth offering a non-invasive, reversible, affordable approach. It’s an easy, quick and affordable solution. It can last for years and yet is affordable enough to be temporary. It has also proven to be a terrific incentive for patients who are in need of but are hesitant to commit to more involved restorative treatment.”
Although costs vary, depending on where you live, Dr. Gross says that a “general rule” is that a bridge costs about two-thirds of the price of implants, with Snap-on-Smile coming in at about one-fourth of the cost of implants, and a partial one-tenth to one-fourth of the cost. Although the “Snap-On” appliance is not a permanent solution, “it may last many years.”
Source: First-person interview with Dr. Gross by journalist Joanne Eglash.