If you’re missing a tooth, you may be debating a tooth implant vs bridge as a form of tooth replacement. being fully informed is the only way to help you reach a decision that’s right for you.
Getting an implant or a bridge may depend on your oral health. While both an implant and a bridge fill the gap left by a missing tooth and restore your smile, they are two very different tooth replacement options. An implant requires oral surgery and a good density of bone whereas a bridge is relatively less invasive and quicker.
What Are Dental Implants?
This is a good option if you have lost a tooth or teeth to an injury, periodontal disease, or other reasons. A dental implant is a titanium post (acting as a tooth root) that supports a crown. It is surgically inserted into the jawbone where it will then fuse (or osseointegrate) into the jawbone to ensure that it is anchored in position. After the osseointegration process is finished (usually 3-6 months), an abutment is attached to the post frame. It protrudes above the gum line to provide the area where the dental crown is cemented or screwed into.
Types Of Implants
Endosteal implants are directly implanted into the jawbone during surgery. A second surgery is needed to connect the post to the first implant once the gum tissue is healed. Last, an artificial tooth is mounted to the post.
With subperiosteal implants, a metal frame is fitted onto the jawbone right below the gum tissue. The frame becomes fixed to the jawbone as the gums heal. Once ready, the artificial tooth is attached to the post.
- Little maintenance: One big perk about dental implants is that they can last a lifetime when they are high quality. They require little maintenance.
- Natural looking: Dental implants look, feel, and function like a natural tooth. They are strong and stable, and they keep your smile confident.
- Protect Your Jawbone: Having an open space in your mouth where a missing tooth once was puts yourjawbone at risk for deterioration. Dental implants stimulate and preserve natural bone growth, which helps prevent bone loss.
- No Strain on Teeth: Unlike a bridge, an implant stands on it’s own support without putting strain on other teeth. This helps to protect surrounding teeth.
- Maintain the integrity of your remaining teeth. In addition to looking and functioning like a natural tooth, a dental implant replaces a single tooth without sacrificing the health of neighboring teeth. The other common treatment for the loss of a single tooth, a tooth-supported fixed bridge, requires that the adjacent teeth be ground down to support the cemented bridge. When replacing multiple teeth, bridges and partial dentures rely on support from adjacent teeth, while implant supported bridges do not.
- Maintain bone health. Because a dental implant will replace your tooth root, your jawbone is better preserved. Implants integrate with your jawbone, helping to keep your bone healthy and intact. With a bridge or denture, some of the bone that previously surrounded the tooth starts to deteriorate.
- Long-term benefits. In the long term, implants are esthetic, functional, and comfortable. On the other hand, gums and bone can recede around a bridge or denture which leaves a visible defect, deteriorated bone from bridges and dentures can lead to a collapsed and unattractive smile, and cement holding bridges in place can wash out, allowing bacteria to decay the teeth that are anchoring the bridge. Finally, removable dentures can move around in your mouth, reducing your ability to eat certain foods.
- Surgery: Dental implants require surgery and while the procedure is relatively straightforward, all surgery comes with risk. Some of the risks include infection, nerve damage, damage to surrounding teeth, jaw fractures, and more.
- Time: Getting a tooth implant is not something that can be done in a single office visit. Bone heals slowly, to the entire procedure can take several months, around 3 months on the fast end.
- Cost: Now, the cost will vary depending on the type of implant and the conditions of the tooth issue. Still, the high cost associated with getting a dental implant is often what deters people from considering this procedure.
- An implant involves several stages and takes time to complete – anywhere from 3 to 6 months depending on the individual.
What Are Dental Bridges?
Dental bridges are used to bridge the gap between one or more missing teeth. The bridge is supported by the natural teeth or implants on either side. It is made up of two or more crowns for the teeth on each part of the gap. The anchoring teeth are called abutment teeth, and the false teeth that lie in between are called pontics.
Types Of Bridges
This type of bridge is most common one, and it’s usually made of either ceramics or porcelain fused to metal. The bridge is created by a crown for the tooth or implant on either side of the gap, and the pontic lies in between.
This type of bridge is not as common as the traditional bridge, and it is not recommended for the back of the mouth where it will receive much force. Cantilever bridges are used when there are adjacent teeth found on only one side of the gap of missing teeth.
Maryland Bonded Bridges
With this type of bridge, the resin-bonded bridge is made of porcelain, porcelain fused to metal, or plastic teeth supported by a porcelain or metal framework. The existing teeth on either side of the gap are bonded to the metal or porcelain wings on the bridge.
- Simple procedure: Unlike dental implants, bridges don’t require surgery, making bridges a lot less painful. All it takes is a simple dental procedure to get your teeth fixed.
- Faster: It’s much quicker and easier to get dental bridges (only a few weeks at the most), whereas implants may take several months.
- Affordable: Bridges are generally more affordable than implants, and they are still strong and supportive for your mouth.
- Less Aesthetically Pleasing: A bridge is not as natural feeling or as aesthetically pleasing as a tooth implant.
- Periodic Replacement: Bridges need to be replaced periodically. They should be changed every 5-7 years.
- Damage Natural Teeth: Your bridge may need replacing due to wear and tear or decay on the supporting teeth. Typically, a patient may need a new bridge in as little as 7 years.
- Preparing the abutment teeth to fit dental crowns can compromise what are otherwise healthy teeth, leaving them susceptible to decay in the future
- A bridge requires more attention to keep it healthy and clean. You may need specialised flossto protect against the build-up of plaque
Which Should I Pick?
Everyone one is different with their own unique dental needs so it’s always a good idea to visit your dentist to discuss the best options with them to replace your missing tooth.
Dental implants and dental bridges both have certain eligibility requirements that must be met in order to qualify as a candidate. Eligibility is determined during an initial treatment consultation.
Dental implantation must be performed after adolescence when bone growth is complete. X-ray or CT scans will likely be used to evaluate bone density and quality and to determine whether a potential implant patient has enough bone structure for implantation. Smokers will need to quit in order to qualify as a candidate due to the fact that there is a higher rate of implant failure for smokers. Additionally, people suffering from diabetes, cancer or periodontal disease may need additional treatments in order to qualify for implantation.
Dental bridge candidacy is far less restrictive than dental implant candidacy because of the relatively less invasive nature of the bridge procedure. The primary factor in determining bridge candidacy is the health and stability on the supporting teeth. If you suffer from periodontal disease, tooth decay or have chips or cracks, you may need to undergo additional treatments before the teeth are strong enough to support a dental bridge.
How long are you willing to wait to have your teeth fixed? A bridge can be fixed in 2 or 3 visits to the dentist, having it done in no time. An implant is a long procedure that requires surgeries and recovery times over the span of several months.
The long lifespan and little maintenance associated with dental implants makes patients over the age of 40 good candidates for this procedure. They may need to be replaced every 15 years or so do to natural wear and tear. Bridges, while more affordable, must be replaced every 5-7 years, and possibly 10 years with the proper care and maintenance.
What works best for you will really depend on your unique situation. Everything from your access to affordable dental care, to the state of your oral health, to basic finances will ultimately determine whether you need a dental bridge or a dental implant.
Oral Aftercare & Maintenance
Both dental bridges and implants require aftercare and good levels of oral hygiene maintenance. This will include brushing twice a day and avoiding both smoking and eating sugary foods. Dental bridges can obstruct the access of dental flossing making this oral task harder and more tedious to complete. While dental implants do not have this problem, patients who do not uphold good levels of oral hygiene and proper aftercare may face infections of the area around the implant during the healing process.
While both dental bridges and implants are not very visible in the mouth and will restore a natural smile, implants are less noticeable overall. This is because dental bridges are not embedded beneath the gum and may be visible behind or in between replacement teeth.
While dental bridges are quicker to install, in the long term there are several practical benefits to dental implants. For instance, healing of gums and the bone structure of the jaw around the implant is promoted. Long term issues involved in bone loss such as the shrinking of the jawbone are not addressed when using a dental bridge.
The Cost Of Implants Vs Bridges
Oftentimes cost is ultimately the deciding factor when it comes to selecting a treatment option. And in the case of dental implants vs dental bridges, cost can be deceiving.
Dental implantation is one of the more costly dental treatments. Alternatively, a dental bridge may cost significantly less. (Keep in mind that the cost of both does not include any additional treatments or therapies that may be required beforehand.)
Considering that dental implants are more restrictive in terms of candidacy, the procedure takes significantly longer to be completed, and they may cost twice as much, you may be asking yourself, why would anyone opt for an implant over a bridge? In one word, the answer is durability.
A dental bridge will likely last between 10 and 20 years before it must be replaced. If cared for properly, an implant can last 40 years or longer. So an implant might cost you more time and money in the short term, but over the lifetime of your smile, it may actually save you both.