Alternatives to dental implant-supported tooth replacements

Leave a gap

  • Lowest initial cost option but may be aesthetically unsightly, depending on position in the mouth
  • May impair ability to chew, smile and speak normally
  • Bone in the gap shrinks (withers) due to resorption by the body as a consequence of not being used, and as a result the gum drops in as well
  • Bone shrinkage can contribute to instability and lateral movement of the adjacent teeth
  • The opposite tooth/teeth in the other arch (jaw) will ‘erupt’ out of alignment due to the absence of masticatory (biting) force in the gap
  • Teeth on either side can ‘drift’ as they are not held securely by a tooth. This can lead to food trapping and decay, this can create a ‘domino’ effect on many teeth

Conventional bridge

  • Initial outlay less than an implant-supported restoration, but the bridge will need to be replaced from time to time due to wear and tear and to maintain good aesthetics
  • Bridge can come loose leading to decay on the supporting teeth
  • Adjacent teeth (often perfectly healthy) need to be filed down to attach the bridge
  • Additional stress on supporting teeth may contribute to their early failure
  • Bone shrinks beneath bridge due to lack of use, leaving an unsightly gap which can trap food
  • Bone shrinkage beneath the bridge can contribute to instability of the adjacent teeth

Conventional full denture

  • Initial outlay less than an implant-supported restoration
  • Pressure on the gums beneath the denture reduces the blood supply which can increase the rate of bone shrinkage through resorption (withering)
  • Needs to be regularly replaced or relined
  • May need denture adhesive to prevent movement
  • Bone shrinks beneath denture due to lack of use
  • Can be uncomfortable to wear, very often poorly tolerated
  • May have significantly impaired speech, chewing and confidence
  • Can be embarrassing and lead to levels of low self-esteem
  • Often reported as not being ‘part of one’
  • Lower dentures often so uncomfortable and loose only worn as a necessity

Conventional partial denture

  • Initial outlay less than an implant-supported restoration, but will require replacement from time to time
  • Bone shrinks beneath denture due to lack of use
  • Can impair normal speech, eating and confidence
  • Fixing attachments (clasps) can damage adjacent teeth


Page compiled with assistance from Dr Dermot McNulty