By David Hudnall, DMD

Replacing a missing tooth is more important than you probably think. If you don’t have the tooth replaced, the repercussions extend far beyond aesthetics alone. Your remaining teeth may shift over time, your bite may become misaligned, and crowding can affect your self-esteem and confidence when speaking or smiling.

When replacing a missing tooth with a dental appliance, there are two general options that don’t involve the use of dental implants: a denture bridge or partial denture. Each has its own distinct advantages and a denturist can help you determine which is the best solution for you. But before you head to your local dental clinic, it helps to understand some of the significant differences between the two. Here are some important things to consider:

Denture Bridge

A denture bridge, also known as a bridge, partial bridge, or fixed partial denture, is a type of false tooth that is affixed between two healthy teeth using crowns. For this reason, bridges can only be used when there are healthy teeth on either side of a gap to provide support.

Bridges are a permanent tooth replacement solution and are bonded or cemented into place. They may be made from metal alloys, porcelain, zirconia, or even gold. A denture bridge can be used to replace an entire section of multiple missing teeth (e.g., the 4 front teeth). For this to work, all of the spaces resulting from missing teeth need to have healthy teeth on both sides.

A bridge is a long-term solution that is designed to last for 10 years or longer. The average lifespan of a bridge ranges between 10 and 20 years. It is the best option for people who like more lifelike comfort and who do not want the hassle of removing their dentures every night for cleaning. However, denture bridges can only be used by patients with remaining teeth that are healthy and in good condition. This is one reason why their use is somewhat limited. Patients who have bone loss or gum disease are generally not appropriate candidates for denture bridgework.

Partial Dentures

Partial dentures, also known as removable partial dentures, are made from an acrylic or metal base with artificial teeth attached. They are supported by the remaining teeth to fill in the gaps caused by missing teeth.

Most partials are attached to the natural teeth with metal clasps. Partial dentures are not permanently attached and therefore must be removed for cleaning. They provide the patient with a fully functional set of teeth and can be used to both restore regular eating habits as well as help maintain proper tooth alignment for the remaining teeth.

Partial dentures are a more cost-effective approach to tooth replacement when compared with a denture bridge. They are the perfect solution for patients who have multiple teeth missing. Certain types of partial dentures are more suitable for patients that have bone loss because the base may be made from a flexible material that is kind to the teeth. Partials are the preferred tooth replacement option for patients who like to remove their false teeth before going to sleep at night, which can make it easier to keep the remaining natural teeth clean.

Because the acrylic that partials are made from will wear out with use and because your gum tissue and bone changes with time, they have a much shorter life than denture bridges and must be replaced more frequently. The average lifespan of a partial denture is 5 years. 

Bridge vs. Partial

So, which one is right for me?

While the answer to this question depends on your unique situation and the recommendation of your denturist, there are certainly pros and cons associated with each option. Let’s compare bridge vs denture and weigh their pros and cons:

Factor Bridge Removable Partial Denture
Provides Support to Facial Muscles Yes Yes
Improves Appearance Yes Yes
Improves Chewing Ability Yes Yes
Works When Lack of Bone for Implants Yes Yes
Offers the Comfort of Natural Teeth Yes Somewhat
Functions Most Like Natural Teeth Yes No
Permanent, Long-Term Solution Yes No
Procedure Is Invasive to Perform Yes No
Average Lifespan of Appliance 10 to 20 years 5 years
Treatment Cost More Costly Economical
Removable for Easy Cleaning No Yes
Suitable for Patients with Gum Disease No Yes
Reversible Procedure No Yes
Covers Gum Tissue/Palate No Yes
Learning Curve to Speak and Eat No Yes

Partial Denture vs. Bridge Cost

When it comes to replacing missing teeth, partial denture vs. bridge cost is often an important and critical consideration for many patients. Denture bridges almost always cost more than partial dentures, largely because there is more involved in making them. The average cost for a 3-unit bridge to replace one missing tooth ranges from $2,500 to $5,000, depending on your geographic location, the complexity of the case, and the material that the bridge is made from. Replacing more than one missing tooth with a bridge will increase the cost by about $800 to $1,000 per each additional unit.

While partial dentures will never offer all of the comfort and permeance of dental bridgework, they are certainly adaptable to many different situations and tooth configurations. Many patients feel that they get more bang for their buck with a partial denture. Unlike a typical denture bridge, which only replaces a few missing teeth, most removable partial dentures replace all of the missing teeth on a single arch. Partial dentures garner an average price range of $600 to $3,000, depending on the design of the partial and the material that it is made from.

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Do you have questions about replacing a missing tooth? Book a free consultation appointment with European Denture Center today to find out which options will work best for you. European Denture is a complete denturist service and provides a number of denture services and advanced tooth replacement solutions including removable partial dentures, implant dentures, full dentures, fixed partial dentures, and flexible partial dentures. Don’t put off restoring your smile and confidence. Book your consultation today!