If you are missing a tooth and considering your options for replacing it, you have probably already heard of dental implants and bridges. These are two of the most common dental treatments used to restore missing teeth. They are quite different from one another, with important pros and cons that you should understand before making your decision.
We will explain those details here, and you can call us for a consultation to answer any other questions that this article does not answer.
“Bridge” is the shortened term we use to describe a cemented tooth replacement that attaches to the neighboring teeth. This dental restoration bridges the gap where a tooth is missing. It includes two retainers, which are crowns that fit over the adjacent teeth, connected to one or more pontics, or fake teeth.
The dental bridge itself is a single piece of metal, porcelain, or a combination of the two, that connects a tooth replacement to its neighbors. Outside of the mouth, a bridge may appear to be several crowns joined together.
A dental implant is a tooth replacement option that uses anchorage in the jawbone instead of connecting to adjacent teeth. Technically, the implant itself is the missing tooth’s root replacement and remains below the gums. Your dentist then builds onto that new root the replacement tooth with attachments called abutments and crowns.
A dental implant does not require any neighboring teeth, as it is a freestanding unit. When a single tooth is missing, we can replace it with a single dental implant.
Both bridges and dental implants are capable of replacing missing teeth with long-term success. They do not require removal by the patient (in fact, the patient cannot remove them). They are both what we call “fixed” tooth replacements, meaning they are cemented into place and not removable.
Because of their anchorage into the jawbone, dental implants have many significant advantages over bridges.
Dental implants’ ability to stand alone provides a significant advantage over all other tooth replacement options. They do not require any removal of tooth structure because all of their support comes from the underlying jawbone. Both cemented bridges and removable partials require support from neighboring teeth, which weakens them and shortens their lifespan.
Because they do not require a connection to other teeth, dental implants are the easiest to clean. Quite simply, you just brush and floss in the normal manner to remove dental plaque.
Dental implants cannot get cavities, but they can suffer from gum disease, so cleaning is essential.
Again, the anchorage into the jawbone is the source of this advantage. A dental implant is the only tooth replacement option that replaces the root of the missing tooth. The chewing forces are thus absorbed into the jawbone, as a natural tooth’s chewing force is. In contrast, bridges and partials cannot recreate the natural chewing force because they rely on a redistribution among the remaining teeth.
Dental bridges have been used to replace missing teeth for decades. They carry a few advantages over dental implants, and your dentist can help you decide if a bridge might meet your needs better than a dental implant will.
To replace a missing tooth with a dental implant, your dentist places the implant body into your jawbone through a surgical procedure. For some patients, surgery is undesirable, or for other medical reasons, not an option. A dental bridge does not require any surgical treatment as the entire procedure takes place outside of the gums (on teeth and gums only).
A dental bridge requires two visits, separated by a three to four week period for the lab to create the final bridge. Dental implants require healing time from the surgical placement, in addition to the time required for making the crown. If a tooth must be removed, this can mean a total period of six to eight months.
With a dental bridge, you receive your final restoration within a few weeks.
A dental bridge requires the neighboring teeth to have the full coverage of a dental crown in order to properly support the replacement tooth. This is not good for a perfectly healthy tooth because it requires the removal of healthy tooth structure.
However, if the neighboring teeth have issues like decay or cracks or large, old fillings, they may need dental crowns anyway. You can use the bridge to cover those teeth, which in essence, kills two birds with one stone.
Call Rockland Dental Specialists today to schedule a consultation with one of our dental experts. We can answer all of your questions about dental implants and bridges so that you can make the best decision regarding your own tooth replacement treatment. Call us at (845) 259-2500 or complete our online contact form today!