When it comes to dental solutions for missing teeth, it’s good to know that you have a variety of options open to you. Two of the most commonly used are dental implants vs bridges. While both approaches address the problem of restoring a smile, at a technical level at least, they are completely different entities. Having better knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages of each is crucial in deciding what restorations type is right for your specific needs.
Dental implants vs bridges – The key differences
The main difference between a dental bridge and a dental implant is in the way that they are supported in the mouth.
A dental bridge, for example, is designed to ‘bridge’ the gap that a missing tooth has left. The bridging (pontic) restoration is supported by a framework of crowns that are fitted over the adjacent teeth located on either side of the gap. The idea is that the bridging restoration spans the gap thus completing the smile.
The advantage of this type of restoration is that it is considered to be one of the most cost-effective ways of replacing a missing tooth or teeth. It is also a speedy, non-surgical process whereby patients will typically receive their completed restoration in just two visits spanning several weeks.
The disadvantages of conventional dental bridges are that in most cases, healthy teeth on either side of the gap will need to be reshaped to accommodate the supporting caps (crowns). This can in some cases compromise them. Also, dental bridges won’t address any underlying structural problems of bone loss that occur when a natural tooth is missing. This means that bone absorption will continue to occur, even after a dental bridge has been placed.
In cases of cantilevered dental bridges (where a single natural tooth supports the entire bridging framework), significant stress is often placed on the supporting tooth. This can cause an otherwise healthy tooth to weaken
So now we know about dental bridges, what about dental implants?
Unlike a dental bridge, an implant doesn’t rely on the support of other teeth to remain in position. Instead, it’s anchored directly into the jawbone at the missing tooth site during a surgical procedure. Over several months, any surrounding bone tissue will merge with the titanium implant to create one immovable platform. This can then be used to support a dental restoration such as a crown.
The disadvantage of this type of procedure is that it involves a surgical process. Therefore, those with existing heart conditions or those that are currently taking certain medications may not always be eligible for dental implant surgery.
Another disadvantage is that initially, anyway, dental implants don’t come cheap. This is because of the skills, processes, and time involved in placing them. Typically the dental implant process from start to finish takes somewhere between 4-6 months although it can take longer.
All that said, the advantages of dental implants vs bridges are many.
Firstly, because implants are anchored directly into the jawbone they put an end to any further bone loss. This is the only type of restoration that can do this and means that patients won’t suffer from jaw bone shrinkage and by default, an aging appearance.
The second advantage is that dental implants have been proven to last considerably longer than dental bridges. In some cases, this can be up to several decades longer. So although implant-based restorations may initially be expensive, they can save a patient a great deal of money in the long term.
Then, of course, there’s the cosmetic aspect…
Because a dental implant is positioned directly into the jaw it becomes part of the structure of the mouth. As such, with the right restoration (crown) it can be incredibly lifelike. A dental bridge on the other hand isn’t always as aesthetically pleasing and also, because it’s not a permanently fixed restoration, can be prone to movement when you least expect it.
But what about strength?
Because a dental implant forms an incredibly strong platform it can easily take the force of a natural human bite. This means that patients can choose to eat whatever foods they like without fear of causing damage.
Conversely, patients wearing a dental bridge or conventional denture, typically have about one-third of the bite force of natural teeth. This means that in many cases, patients need to change their diets to accommodate a new restoration – swapping out harder chewy foods for softer foods.
If you remain unsure about what type of restoration works best for you and are struggling with the whole dental implants vs bridges debate, then there may be a compromise. Depending upon your circumstances and/or dental condition, your dentist may suggest an implant-supported dental bridge.
Because an implant creates a standalone structure, it can support multiple restorations such as single crowns, dentures and, a dental bridge.
As a result, your dentist may decide to place an implant at one end of the gap and use it to support a false bridging tooth to complete your smile. Likewise, larger gaps can also be restored using two implant posts positioned at either end of the gap, which are then used to support several or more pontic restorations.
Hopefully, this has given you plenty of useful advice but as always, it pays to talk to your dentist. Chesterfield Dentistry based here in Missouri has a highly skilled team led by Dr. Melba Akinwande who will listen to your requirements. From this, she will develop a custom treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.
Remember you don’t have to live with a missing tooth gap. Call us on 314 786 3360 or schedule a consultation with an experienced dentist today!