Dental Implant vs Dental Bridge
The options for replacing missing teeth have significantly improved in the past few decades. In order to be confident in your smile, it is vital to select the proper tooth replacement option that best suits your needs. Many patients with missing teeth want to understand the difference between an implant and a dental “bridge”. In many cases, dental implants are the optimal solution, however, various factors should be considered prior to making a decision as each solution has its pros and cons.
In the past, bridges were the only solution available for replacing a missing tooth. To prepare the teeth for the bridge, most of the enamel on the adjacent teeth must be removed by cutting away healthy tooth structure. With a dental implant, however, only individual tooth is replaced without any impact or modifications required to the adjacent teeth. Implants also provide patients with a stronger and more permanent solution. Implants are not subject to cavities like natural teeth are. In some cases, a dental bridge may be a good solution as the adjacent teeth have large fillings or require crowns. If the tooth has been missing for an extended period of time, it is possible for the gum and bone to recede. This may prevent the patient from being a candidate for an implant. It is important for patients to discuss their options with the dentist as each individual case is unique.
One advantage of implants is their ability to stimulate the jawbone and maintain the shape of the face. Dental bridges, are cemented in the mouth. They typically include three or more crowns which are connected together to fill in the missing tooth. This can cause unique challenges with routine brushing and flossing due to difficulty accessing the area around the bridge. Implants are able to replace an individual tooth and have no impact to the surrounding teeth. This ultimately allows patients to brush and floss the implant as they do their natural teeth.
Dental implants are also stronger and more durable than a bridge. When they are properly cared for, implants can last a lifetime. The base of the implant or post is typically made from titanium and naturally fuses to the jawbone. Titanium is an extremely strong metal and rarely experiences gum issues. Dental bridges, however, last for, on average, about 10 years before they require maintenance or even replacement. Because a portion of the tooth remains under the bridge, normal wear and tear can result in bridge failure due to tooth fracture. The tooth structure which remains can also be susceptible to gum disease and decay.
While a dental bridge may seem less expensive in the short term, they typically require replacement over time. This can make the overall cost for a bridge more expensive than an implant. Dental implants are more expensive initially, however can be more cost-effective long term. Many dentists also offer financing or payment plans which allow more patients to afford the treatment.
When discussing if dental bridges or implants are better, it is important to work with a dentist to determine the right choice based on your individual needs. The dentist can help guide you through the decision based on your oral health, timeline for treatment, budget and other considerations. While bridges have been used longer, dental implants are gaining popularity and becoming a more popular solution due to their many benefits.