Are you concerned about your missing teeth and looking for solutions? For adults, missing permanent teeth can cause problems with eating, speaking and appearance, to mention just a few—so it’s good to consider the options for replacing missing teeth.
You’re certainly not alone with this problem, though. Studies estimate that 178 million Americans have at least one tooth absent, and about 40 million Americans have no teeth at all!
There are several solutions that can replace a missing tooth, but each has its own pros and cons. You’ll need to consider what’s most important in terms of:
In this guide, we’ll explain the different options for how to fix missing teeth so you can decide which is best for you whether you’re missing a front tooth, back tooth, or several.
Table of contents
- 1 Is replacing a missing tooth necessary?
- 2 Treatments for replacing missing teeth
- 3 What does replacing missing teeth cost?
- 4 Best solutions for when you are missing a tooth
- 5 Conclusion
Is replacing a missing tooth necessary?
If you or someone you know are lacking one or more teeth, you probably already understand some of the problems that this can cause:
- Difficulty eating certain foods
- Self-consciousness over appearance, especially with a missing front tooth
- Increased risk of damage to surrounding teeth
- Speech problems
- Other teeth becoming crooked
- Greater likelihood of gum disease and cavities
- Deterioration of the jawbone, which can make the face sag over time (worse when several are missing)
If you are missing a back tooth which isn’t really visible, you might not feel like it’s a big issue. However, the longer you have gaps in your mouth, the more likely it is that there will be negative consequences to your oral health. So even if you don’t notice any immediate missing teeth problems, it’s worth considering your options for replacing a missing tooth to protect your mouth from damage later on.
The following animation demonstrates how not treating a single absent tooth can affect other healthy ones:
Reasons for missing teeth
Missing adult teeth can occur for a number of reasons. It might be an accident or injury which knocked out a tooth or damaged it beyond repair. Tooth decay and gum disease may also advance to the point where teeth fall out or have to be extracted.
And did you know it’s possible to have absent teeth because of a genetic condition called hypodontia? Also known as ‘congenitally missing teeth’, hypodontia causes one or more of the 20 baby teeth or 32 adult teeth to be absent.
It’s often the wisdom teeth which are affected by hypodontia, in which case missing tooth replacement isn’t necessary. But for those who are missing one or more of their other adult teeth, often the second premolar or lateral incisor, this can cause problems if they are not replaced.
Treatments for replacing missing teeth
Now let’s take a look at the various dental options for a missing tooth:
- Teeth implants
- Veneers (in some cases)
If several teeth are absent in different positions, and you are considering your missing tooth options, a combination of these treatments may be the optimal solution to fix missing teeth.
Implants are the replacement tooth option that’s closest to a real tooth. This is because the metal implant is inserted into the jaw bone, performing some of the same functions as a tooth root. Additionally, it fuses with the jaw bone to prevent bone loss and changes to the shape of the face.
An implant can support a single tooth crown, or two implants can support a bridge of three to four teeth. This is the most expensive option for replacing missing teeth, but it’s also very long-lasting. Implants should look and feel like normal teeth once they are in place. You’ll need to take care of them with proper brushing and flossing, but there is no special cleaning required.
All-on-4 implants for replacing all teeth
If you’re lacking all the teeth in one or both jaws, or if any remaining teeth are in poor condition, All-on-4 implants are a more affordable alternative to traditional implants. Using just four or six implants in each jaw, a full set of missing teeth replacements can be attached (know as implant dentures).
If you need replacements for all your teeth, this option is more expensive than dentures but it also much longer-lasting and should let you eat like normal.
A dental bridge is a kind of fake tooth that’s supported by the neighboring healthy teeth, like three or four crowns joined together. The supporting teeth have to be filed down slightly for the bridge to fit over the top, then it’s secured with an adhesive.
It’s also possible to get a bonded bridge with ‘wings’ that fix to the adjacent teeth. This is preferable if the teeth are in good condition and you want to avoid removing healthy enamel.
Bridges are a good balance between price and durability, and they should look like natural teeth. A bridge can only replace up to two teeth at a time, so if you’re lacking several in a row then you’ll need to consider another option.
See our dental bridge guide for more information about this treatment.
Dentures are usually the cheapest way to replace a missing tooth or even a full mouth of teeth. Also called “false teeth”, they are removable appliances with any number of fake teeth attached to a wire and acrylic frame.
Some people live very happily with dentures, but others find them uncomfortable and have problems with them slipping out of place. Thus, you may opt for dentures as a temporary treatment option while saving money for a more permanent solution.
Occasionally it’s possible to use veneers to fix missing teeth, but only if there is a very small gap left between two teeth. A veneer, either composite or porcelain, is applied to the teeth on either side to “fill in” the gap. In most cases, this is not a recommended missing tooth replacement option.
Treatment to replace a missing tooth may also involve orthodontic work. If you have had a tooth gone for a while, the other teeth may have started to move out of alignment. Braces can bring the remaining teeth back into their proper position before replacing the ones you are missing.
This may be an optional part of your treatment, but bear in mind that having straight teeth is not just about esthetics; it also makes it easier to maintain good oral hygiene. Your dentist will be able to explain your treatment options and outcomes.
Snap-On Smile for missing teeth
Snap-On Smile is a system that gives you a set of straight, white teeth that you can put on over your natural teeth. It is non-invasive, so no drilling or change to tooth structure, and it can be used as a temporary or long-term provisional solution.
What does replacing missing teeth cost?
In the table below you can see a summary of the treatment options discussed above, as well as approximate costs for replacing missing teeth in these ways:
Missing tooth replacement options on insurance
Dentures and bridges may be covered by Medicaid, if they are considered medically necessary, and depending on the state you live in. Your Medicare Advantage plan might help cover the costs as well.
Read our article on Medicaid and Medicare to find out more about state and federally-funded health insurance.
How to replace a missing tooth cheap
If you’re on a tight budget but don’t want removable dentures, there are other ways to make dental implants more affordable. One popular option is to travel abroad to a country like Mexico, Hungary or Turkey where high-quality dental care is much cheaper than in the US. Patients can save 50-70% on their dental costs this way. To see if this would be a good option for you, check out our guide to dental tourism.
We also have a separate guide with more ways to save on implants and other dental care.
Best solutions for when you are missing a tooth
Replacing a single tooth
If you can afford it, a dental implant is a natural-looking and long-lasting way to replace a single tooth without affecting either of the neighboring teeth.
However, both dentures and bridges are suitable ways to replace a single missing tooth as well. They may not last as long as an implant, but they are more affordable.
Multiple teeth missing
Dentures are the cheapest way to replace multiple teeth. Even if you only have a handful of healthy teeth remaining (or none at all), a removable denture can fill in the gaps and let you eat and speak like normal.
An implant bridge can be used for three to four teeth in a row, while full mouth implants provide a full jaw of missing teeth replacements.
Options for missing front tooth vs. options for missing back teeth
If you have a missing front tooth, esthetics become a more important factor when choosing your treatment. Are you wondering how to fix a missing tooth in front?
Ceramic bridges and implants, when made well, can blend with your natural teeth. Acrylic dentures don’t look quite so natural. It’s possible to get ceramic dentures, but this increases the price significantly.
Another issue with dentures is that some metal wire clips may be visible, depending on the design. So the best option for missing front teeth is implants or a bridge, in terms of esthetics.
Since back teeth are less visible, you can consider dentures or partial implants for missing back teeth solutions. Additionally, acrylic dentures, as a missing back teeth replacement, is a good option if you are interested in something more affordable.
There are several ways to replace missing teeth and we hope this guide has helped you work out which option would suit you best.
One thing we don’t recommend is doing nothing. Even if having a tooth missing isn’t bothering you now, leaving the gap in your mouth could lead to more problems in the years to come. Your dentist will be happy to discuss all the dental options for missing teeth with you.
Hindawi: Hypodontia: An Update on Its Etiology, Classification, and Clinical Management. Consulted 31st July 2019.
thebmj: Austin Powers bites back: a cross sectional comparison of US and English national oral health surveys. Consulted 31st July 2019.
ACP: Missing Teeth. Consulted 14 August 2019.