Bridges vs. Implants
Nothing can make you want to hold back a smile more than a missing or severely damaged tooth. If you have already lost a tooth, or are needing to have a tooth extracted, you may be wondering what options are available to you to restore your natural smile.
There are two primary options available to those who want to replace one or more teeth: dental bridges and dental implants.
What is a Dental Bridge?
The term “bridge” is appropriate for this dental device in more than one way. It can fill a gap between teeth and it is held in place by being attached to adjacent teeth.
It works like this: a false tooth is created to replace the missing tooth. It can be carefully matched in both shape and color to your existing teeth. Now it needs to be held in place so that you can use it as you would a natural tooth.
Holding the Tooth in Place
The false tooth (known as a “pontic”) is held in place by cementing crowns to the top of two adjacent, healthy teeth. In order for the pontic to align properly and for the crowns to be cemented securely, it is necessary to shave or file the tops of the teeth to which the crowns will be attached.
This basic bridge may not be an option if you are missing more than three consecutive teeth. A different kind of bridge, known as a “cantilever bridge” may be required if your missing tooth is in a spot where it’s not possible to place a crown on the two teeth adjacent to the gap.
An examination and consultation with our San Diego dentist will help you understand which of these bridge options would be appropriate for your situation.
How Are Implants Different?
An implant is a replacement tooth that is fixed in your jawbone just as a natural tooth would be. It stands on its own and does not need to be attached to other teeth to stay in place.
Attaching an Implant
The process for inserting a dental implant is quite different, and involves a surgical procedure. In the case of a dental implant, the first step is to create what is essentially an artificial “root” for the replacement tooth.
A post made of titanium is inserted in your jaw, and before things can proceed further, it must have time to fuse with your jawbone. This healing process is known as “osseointegration,” and it takes three to six months to complete.
Now the time has come to attach a replacement tooth, matched to your existing teeth, to the post.
Bridges vs Implants: Pros and Cons
Both of these options are well-established and effective procedures that can help you regain a natural-looking smile and to restore self-confidence that your missing tooth may have taken from you, and both procedures have been very successful for many, many patients before you.
The dental professionals at La Jolla Dental care are known for achieving excellent results – no matter which of these options you choose. There are differences, however, and there are some points you might want to consider.
For some patients, this is a primary consideration, and understandably so. A dental bridge will cost considerably less than a dental implant. In the long run, that may be offset to some extent by the fact that dental implants often last longer. However, depending on your age, that may not be an issue. In regard to this subject, it’s also worth noting that most insurance plans will not cover the cost of a dental implant.
Dental Health: Bridges
As discussed earlier, in order for the bridge to be attached, healthy teeth must be shaved or filed. Because of this, these teeth will never again be able to function as “normal” teeth, but will always need to be covered. It is also possible that the filing may eventually lead to decay in some rare cases at some point in the future, and the need for a root canal on a tooth that might not have previously required this treatment.
In addition to this, over time some bone and gum loss can occur in the area beneath the replacement tooth, where the natural tooth was extracted or missing. Cleaning around a bridge requires a little extra attention, all of which we ensure you understand and are confident to perform.
Dental Health: Implants
Over the long run, an implant does have dental health benefits. None of your healthy teeth will need to have natural structure removed to place the implant. Your gums and jawbone will be stimulated in the same way that they would be if a natural tooth was still in place, which contributes to maintaining oral health.
An dental implant can be cleaned and flossed just as you would clean a natural tooth.
Surgery vs No Surgery
Surgery is not required to place a dental bridge. If you prefer to avoid surgical procedures if possible, or if you are ineligible to receive surgery for a health reason, this makes your choice simple.
Implants do require surgery and thus the potential for risk that could possibly come with surgery of any type. Complications are not expected, but they are possible. In certain cases, you may not be eligible for surgery even if you are healthy, for example:
- A primary nerve cannot be located in the lower jaw
- You are a smoker
- You clench or grind your teeth
- You are taking drugs to treat osteoporosis
The surgical aspect of implants involves another factor. A bridge can be completed over a period of a few weeks, with two or three visits to the dentist. Implants require more visits over a much longer period (three to six months). It is also possible that other surgical procedures, such a bone graft, will be needed to achieve the optimum outcome.
How Long Do They Last?
A dental bridge may need to be replaced in five to seven years. A dental implant can last for fifteen years or more.
Whether you choose a bridge or an implant, if the work is done by a skilled professional you can expect a beautiful, natural-looking result. (Be sure to ask to see examples of work that your dentist has performed on other patients.)
Over time, changes in the jawbone or gums in the area beneath the artificial tooth in a bridge may contribute to a less desirable appearance. You won’t experience this with an implant, as the jawbone and gums will have the same appearance as if a natural tooth was in place.
In general, an implant is considered to offer the highest aesthetic standard. But there are reasons that you do not choose this option, that does not mean you cannot achieve a result that leaves you happy.
Making Your Decision
Ultimately, many factors are involved in making your decision, including your overall dental health, the location of the tooth being replaced, and more. No one is more qualified than our dentist to help you achieve perspective and make the choice that is right for you.