Dental Bridge vs. Dental Implant, Benefits and Pros
Losing teeth stinks. But it is a normal part of aging. In fact, by age 35, most adults have lost at least one permanent tooth and many more have at least three decaying teeth that are at risk of falling out. The numbers just go up from there.
The problem with having one or more missing teeth is that it’s not as much fun to smile and it can be difficult to eat some of your favorite foods and snacks. So the best way to face this issue head on is with a restorative dental device, such as dental implants or a dental bridge. Both are dependable, long-term solutions to tooth loss.
What is a Dental Implant?
According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, dental implants are the next best thing to your real teeth. A dental implant is like an artificial tooth root. It consists of a metal post (usually titanium) that the dentist surgically inserts into your jawbone where your missing tooth once stood. After a few months, new bone grows around and stabilizes the implant. At that point, the dentist places an abutment to the top of the implant that attaches to a custom-made crown that resembles your natural teeth.
Dental Implant Pros & Cons
Dental implants are long-lasting and feel like your real teeth. But the procedure can take months to finalize. Here are some other pros and cons.
- Implants do not impact remaining healthy teeth the way other restorative treatments can.
- They prevent bone loss. When you lose a tooth, the bone in your jaw begins breaking down. But after you get a dental implant, the titanium base helps preserve and maintain the structure of the jaw and can stimulate bone growth.
- The actual implants are permanent. The ceramic crown can last 10 to 15 years or longer.
- Getting a dental implant is a surgical procedure.
- It’s a three-step process that can take a minimum of two months. 1) The titanium implant is drilled into the jaw. 2) After the bone heals (about 3-6 months), a post is attached to the implant. 3) Once the gum tissue heals(about 2 weeks), a crown is attached to the post.
What is a Dental Bridge?
A dental bridge is an oral device placed non-surgically into the mouth to bridge the gap created by one or more missing teeth. Just like with implants, the replacement teeth attached to a dental bridge feel and function like your real teeth. A bridge can also prevent a lot of the problems associated with missing teeth.
There are a number of different dental bridges. Here are three of the most common:
- A traditional bridge is anchored to two healthy teeth positioned on each side of the missing tooth or teeth. The stable teeth are shaved down and capped with a crown. The crowns are attached to a bridge that also holds the artificial tooth or teeth in place.
- If your remaining teeth are not strong enough to support the bridge, you can get a Maryland bridge. It’s a device that has metal “wings” instead of crowns. To stabilize the bridge, the metal framework is bonded to existing teeth. This is the favored bridge for replacing front teeth.
- A cantilever bridge is an option if you only have one available support tooth next to the missing tooth. A cantilever bridge has one crown (that covers the healthy support tooth) and the replacement artificial tooth or teeth.
Dental Bridge Pros & Cons
The main advantage of getting a dental bridge is that it’s a fast, non-surgical procedure. You can have a dental bridge put in within two days.
- A dental bridge is strong and reliable.
- Significantly shorter treatment time compared to implants. This total takes about 2-3 weeks
- They’re comfortable and easy to wear, even when you chew and speak.
- A dental bridge can preserve the structure of your mouth and prevent remaining teeth from shifting out of place.
- If the teeth surrounding the gap are discolored or decaying, the crowns will improve their appearance.
- One of the biggest downsides of a traditional bridge is that healthy teeth have to be shaved and capped with a crown to support the bridge.
- Dental bridges tend to have a shorter lifespan than implants. They can also place strain on surrounding teeth.
- Patients can still get cavities around the dental bridge.
- A dental bridge does not prevent jawbone loss resulting from missing teeth.
If your missing tooth is hidden by your cheek or it’s in the back of your mouth, you might be tempted to pass on an implant or bridge all together. The only problem with ignoring a gap in your gums and jaw is that it can speed up the process of bone loss and your teeth can shift position. The remaining teeth would be overloaded with bite force and potentially lead to crack tooth syndrome. After a few months, you may start to notice a change in your smile and the shape of your face. This will not happen with an implant or bridge.
Whichever option you choose, it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene habits because your remaining teeth, along with your gums and the structures beneath the gums, will continue to be susceptible to disease and decay. Getting a bridge or implant won’t stop your remaining teeth from falling out, but brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist for a cleaning and examination every six months can protect your natural teeth, implants and bridge work.