While cost alone is never the only consideration, generally speaking, getting dental implants rather than partial dentures will be the more expensive option to replace missing teeth. However, this is not always the case. A recent patient visit to our office is a perfect example of the exception to the rule and why you should always explore your options before making a decision to replace your teeth.
How Can Implants Be More Economical Than Partial Dentures?
When I saw this patient on Tuesday, the question and the lead-up to it were a lot more involved than it may appear.
Let me explain what happened on that day.
I initially met this patient a few weeks ago. Our first encounter occurred when she came to me with a swollen face and gum tissue in her mouth. The cause of her problem centered around a single tooth on her lower left side. This large back molar was the only tooth on that side in the posterior section of her mouth. She had a tooth above the painful tooth, and the two of them constituted her chewing function on that side. The other side of her mouth, the right side, did not show any lower teeth with which to chew. In short, the only chewing that existed for her was the tooth with the swelling on the left side.
To complicate things even more, she gave me a time limit. She wanted me to relieve the pain and allow her to chew in time for an August vacation. I assured her that this goal was attainable and she would travel pain-free on her vacation. Due to the extent of the swelling in her mouth, I could not do a detailed tooth exam.
Problems Revealed During a Detailed Exam
Fast forward a few weeks, and I prepare to do a procedure and save the one chewing tooth. All of my patients who require this procedure receive a 3D image of the tooth to give me more information, and this patient was no exception. With the help of this high-tech device and a reduction in the swelling, I saw some unknown details that were not evident previously. The tooth had a large hole on the cheek side that started at the gum and went under the gum. The extent of this hole prevented me from saving the tooth.
Evaluating Her Candidancy For Dental Implants
She would ultimately lose the tooth and all of her chewing ability. She proceeded to ask me about implants, and I evaluated her for that procedure. I saw from our same 3D image that she was a good candidate for implant dentistry. Since she did not have teeth on either side of her mouth, dental implants are necessary for both areas of her mouth. These procedures would take some time to do.
Partial Dentures – A Viable 2nd Option?
As always, I try to give my patients options and bring up the idea of a lower partial denture. In general, there are fewer steps to follow, and therefore the fees are lower. A partial denture can replace many teeth at an affordable cost. This tooth replacement covers both sides of her mouth with one device, and it rests over the gum tissue in all areas. However, my patient has a unique problem that changed the direction of the partial denture.
On her gum, towards her tongue on both the left and right side, were large bony growths. These growths are not infections or harmful, but they are there. For a dental appliance to work, both areas require the removal of both bony bumps. Time and fees would go up proportionately. What seemed like a fast and simple solution for tooth replacement became much more involved. Together we decided that dental implants are her best choice.
Comparative Analysis For The Best Approach
A good and appropriate plan of action to save or replace teeth requires evaluation and comparison of all possibilities. In this particular case, it was a choice of dental implants vs partial dentures.
When an objective comparison is made based on facts and data, the correct approach will result.
If you have a question about your dental future, please call Nikki or Sarah at 440.951.7856 and make an appointment. I look forward to meeting you.
Jeffrey Gross, DDS, FAGD is an Ohio licensed general dentist and is on the staff of Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine.