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Molar Replacement option - Essix Retainer?



Jan 21, 2016
Central IL, USA
My uppermost molar on the left side is badly decayed. We knew it needed a filling roughly a year ago, but my dentist prioritized some other fillings and a root canal before this molar tooth - and with a host of health issues springing up on my end, I simply haven't found the time (and, to be quite honest, the courage) to go back and have the work completed.

Well, a few days ago, things went from bad to worse for this tooth and somewhere along the way, a large chunk of the tooth went missing (I honestly thing it was during an episode of suspected food poisoning; I was sucking on a mint to keep from being ill, and I felt myself reverting to tooth 'clinching' behavior that I had when younger). There is now a large crater in this tooth to the point where a filling wouldn't be an option - and it would probably wind up requiring a root canal and a crown.

I trust my dentist, but I don't have it in me to sit in the chair for over an hour and a half (my last root canal took four hours at a different dentist), spend a ridiculously high sum of money, and hope that the tooth doesn't fracture or wind up infected anyway.

I was thinking about just having the tooth extracted and just getting an essix retainer with a fake "tooth" where the molar would be removed. I had a mouthpiece several years ago to prevent grinding and clinching damage and after the initial adjustment period, it wasn't so bad - it's my understanding that the essix retainer wouldn't be all that different from my mouthpiece/mouthguard. I'm not a candidate for implants due to clinching/grinding and because of the cost. Even if I need to replace the essix retainer, at $150-250 every few years, it's the most cost-effective option. I figure that this could eventually be replaced down the road when I need a partial (or full) denture due to failing dental work and/or additional decay.

My question is: Is an essix retainer with a fake "tooth" a viable option?
That's definitely an interesting idea, putting a fake tooth in an essix retainer. Just my two cents, but to me, it sounds like it would have a number of down sides, one being that you would have to wear the retainer all the time. I've been in Invisalign for almost a year, and I always have to brush my teeth whenever I'm going to put the aligners back in my mouth (because: 1) I think it's gross not to, and 2) wearing plastic over your teeth reduces your saliva's ability to wash away the sugars on your teeth from the food you eat.). Honestly, it's a HUGE pain in the butt to be at work when people are constantly bringing in yummy food and I have to weigh whether or not it's worth it to brush my teeth for the sixth time that day. That, and brushing my teeth in restaurants isn't a whole lot of fun (but is totally worth it for the end result!).

Secondly, an essix retainer might be quite noticeable on your teeth. My boss told me that she has an essix retainer that she wears at night because she had braces as an adult. She sees how my Invisalign keeps me from constantly eating whatever junk food is at the office, and because she's always snacking herself, she has joked with me that maybe she should wear her retainer to work to keep from snacking. When I said, "yeah, you should do that" she said that actually she wouldn't ever do that because her essix retainer is really discolored no matter how much she tries to clean it; she wouldn't ever want to wear it in public. I can kind of understand that, as my Invisalign trays can get pretty darn grungy even though I'm switching them out every couple of weeks.

Lastly, if a fake tooth was in an essix retainer, you would still have an obviously missing tooth every time you take out the retainer to eat. Or since it's a molar, it might not be that noticeable that you're missing a tooth. If you can't afford an implant, maybe a bridge would be a better option? Since you trust your dentist, maybe bring this up with him. He might be able to give you options that will work for you. Good luck!
I don't think this specific tooth is a candidate for a bridge as it is the last tooth on the top of my mouth, so the anchor teeth would all be on one side with the missing tooth at the end. One would think that would leave the end of the bridge vulnerable to breaking - and if this one would cost as much as the last bridge I had done (I have one on the opposite side of the upper jaw; one missing tooth, two anchor teeth), that's too high a cost for something that will wind up breaking the first time I chew on it.

It's not so much a matter of there being a visible gap - This molar tooth sits back far enough that you can't even see it unless you pull my cheek way back (The dentist even had a hard time examining it as it sits so far back). Plus, it never fully errupted out of the gums anyway. Starting to wish I had let my first dentist pull it way back when, as she said it would probably wind up causing problems down the road :giggle:

Oh, I'm sure the Essix Retainer would definitely have its downsides - but my options are limited. I mean, I'd be willing to just crown it without a root canal - but with the way the 'crater' is in the tooth, it would require a post (which requires a root canal) and honestly, I'd probably require an oral surgeon to reach that tooth as I doubt I'd be able to keep my mouth open for over an hour without sedation (like I said, this tooth sits way too far back for any lengthier work to not exacerbate TMJ issues/Panic Disorder issues)/

IDK, it's a crummy situation all around. I could have dealt with it eventually just needing a deep filling (even though with it being a biting tooth on the side where I do all of my chewing, the filling probably wouldn't have lasted for long) - but it just HAD to go and break off :giggle:
I've done these for 20 years. Essix Retainers aren't functional in nature. They are good for aesthetics only. The basic rule is only drink plain water when you have one in your mouth. No food or other drink.