Dental implants and bridges are both viable options for individuals suffering from a missing tooth. Losing teeth has more than just functional implications – it can also affect a person’s appearance and self-confidence. Should you consider a dental bridge implant vs implant? Understanding the differences between an implant and bridge procedure can help you determine which is best for you.
What are dental bridges, and are they the right choice?
One of the primary advantages of dental bridges is that they are simply a cost-effective solution. But what exactly is a dental bridge?
In the easiest possible terms, a dental bridge is just that – a bridge – that fills in the gap created by missing teeth. It works by placing a crown on each of the adjacent teeth with an artificial tooth (or teeth) between them (called a pontic). There are many benefits to replacing missing teeth with this solution. First and foremost, you’ll be able to notice a functional improvement in your mouth. The addition of a dental bridge can restore your ability to properly chew and speak, as these are often affected by missing teeth. Additionally, this treatment option can restore your smile in a fairly quick manner.
If you do choose dental bridges, pay special attention to keeping the area clean and free of debris especially underneath the pontic.
How do you care for a dental bridge?
Caring for your dental bridge is of the utmost importance – not only for the longevity of the bridge itself but for your overall oral health. Keeping your bridge clean is a little different from caring for your natural teeth.
Brush every day.
Your dental work needs to be brushed daily in order to prevent tartar and plaque from building up. It’s best to use a soft-bristled toothbrush since it’s gentle on your dental work, but still tough enough to keep everything clean.
Floss with great care.
Any dentist will tell you how important it is to floss your teeth, and the same goes for caring for your dental bridge. Flossing will help to prevent decay and gum disease – pay special attention to the areas between your natural teeth and your dental work. The area underneath the pontic can trap food in between it and your gums. Take a look at the following picture and notice the design of the pontic and how it fits your gums.
Use a fluoride rinse.
Caring for the gum line around your dental work is key to ensuring the longevity of the dental work. Brushing and flossing are important and necessary, but opting for a fluoride rinse will give you an extra layer of protection against bacteria and decay. One of the primary causes for bridges to fail is decay getting under the under the margins of the crown, so proper hygiene is very important.
What are the disadvantages of dental bridges?
While bridges are a quick and affordable solution to replacing your missing teeth, they don’t come without their disadvantages. Before you choose your treatment option, you should weigh the pros and cons of each solution.
- The downside to the bridge option is that you need to place crowns or full coverage restorations on the teeth on either side of the missing tooth. If either of these teeth required restorations, then this is a good option. However, often those teeth are virgin and it may be overly aggressive to place restorations on them for the sake of making a bridge work.
- Strain around surrounding teeth is one of the biggest issues patients experience with dental bridges. This is especially true of the two teeth attached to the device. Proper design of the bridge and preparation of the adjacent teeth is key in ensuring the longevity of the restoration and health of the teeth.
- Missing teeth are often caused by some underlying structural issues in the mouth, like chronic gum disease or tooth decay. Since bridges can be a quicker option, the underlying cause of the reason for the tooth loss may be overlooked and can continue to be an issue.Any long-term issues that arise from bone loss due to missing teeth will continue to advance and develop.
Do dental implants feel more like real teeth?
Dental implants can feel very much like your natural teeth.
An implant solution actually serves as an artificial root for a new tooth. A metal post serves as the new root system and, over time, bone growth (or osseointegration) will occur around the metal. The metal is actually titanium, which has been used in the medical field for decades as well particularly in orthopedics. A crown is then screwed or cemented on top, making the implant restoration complete. This solution helps to ease the burden on the surrounding teeth by providing a replacement tooth with a solid foundation of its own.
While there may be some initial adjustment, a dental implant will ultimately feel very similar – if not indistinguishable – to your natural teeth. Implants are generally considered the strongest solution to support replacement teeth. With this security and “real feel,” your teeth will look and function naturally.
Should you choose a bridge or implant for a missing tooth?
There are several things you should consider with your dentist before choosing between a bridge or dental implant for your missing tooth.
Cost is one of the main differentiating factors between bridges and implants. In fact, many individuals are often in the position where this is what ultimately makes the decision for them. While implants can be a more expensive solution initially, they do have a better long term outcome compared to the cost of bridges during a lifetime. For example, one single implant may cost more than a 3-unit bridge, but the chances of that bridge needing to be replaced is far greater than the need for replacement of a bridge. Therefore, the lifetime cost of a bridge may be greater comparatively.
The treatment process can often vary widely between the two procedures, as well. A dental bridge is a much less time-intensive solution than an implant. Since an implant involves bone healing and bone generation around the metal, the process will take longer and the final crown or restoration must be delayed until then. In some cases, a bone graft may be necessary to ensure proper support of a dental implant.
Recovery time is also something to consider when choosing between these two procedures. An implant can usually be inserted in an hour or two, but the bone then needs to grow around the implant before the crown is placed. This means that the whole process can take several months and you may be in a temporary restoration as the implant healsBridges, on the other hand, generally can be completed with one or two relatively short visits.
What are the pros and cons of an implant vs a bridge?
When comparing dental bridges vs dental implants, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each.
Dental bridge pros
- It’s a less invasive procedure that can easily replace a missing tooth with the treatment time often only taking one or two visits.
- It’s a nonsurgical procedure, which means you have an easier recovery time.
- Bone density is less of an issue when considering dental bridges.
Dental bridge cons
- Dental bridges generally will need a replacement, and the longevity is dependent on many factors
- Dental bridges can affect the neighboring teeth, leaving them more susceptible to decay and a higher possibility of future root canals.
Dental implant pros
- A dental implant requires relatively little maintenance and cannot get tooth decay, making its long-term prognosis excellent.
- This is a long-lasting solution for a missing tooth.
- Dental implants are stable and secure, so they look and feel like a natural tooth.
Dental implant cons
- Dental implants involve a surgical procedure, and there are always risks involved with surgery.
- It’s long-lasting, but it’s also time-intensive.
- As we’ve noted before, dental implants aren’t always covered by dental insurance, so this can be a more costly solution.
Achieve a better smile
Whether you ultimately choose dental implants or a bridge, you’re well on your way to a better smile and improved quality of life. These pros and cons are not a “one size fits all” and a discussion with Dr. Perry is important to choose what is right for you.
Contact our office for a smile design consultation.