If you have a missing tooth and are weighing up your dental bridge vs implant options, then you’ve come to the right place.
While both dental implants and a dental bridge fundamentally solve many of the initial problems that missing teeth can cause-aesthetics, bite, restoration of self-confidence, etc – they are, at a technical level at least, very different options.
So, if you’re looking to find the right missing tooth solutions for you, it’s important that you understand, not only those differences but also the pros and cons of each. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look.
Getting back to basics
Why close a tooth gap?
It’s easy to think that when a tooth or teeth are missing and they aren’t in the immediate smile line, they can be ignored. And sure enough, nobody is really going to notice a toothy gap in the short term, especially when the gap is located right at the back of the mouth. The problem with this way of thinking, however, is that once a tooth is missing, things happen! These are ‘things’ which, unfortunately, are very much beyond your control.
So what does happen?
In the main, when a tooth is lost or removed, it kickstarts a series of processes which will, if not dealt with, lead to further deterioration of the area. These include:
Bone tissue loss
Because the bone tissue no longer supports the tooth root, it’s now redundant. As such, the body starts to reabsorb any calcium contained within and redistribute it to other more needy places, Ultimately, this leads to jaw bone shrinkage in the missing tooth area and as this happens it can cause surrounding teeth to also become compromised. Did you know that as much as 25%of your entire jaw can be lost or reabsorbed within the first year after a tooth is missing?
The second major factor to occur when a tooth is lost is that the remaining teeth will start to gravitate towards the gap. So why does this occur?
Just imagine a row of books tightly packed on a bookshelf. They’re not likely to move anywhere, even when a little force is applied because they’re all supporting one another. Now, remove one or two books and apply the same amount of force. The remaining books are no longer stable as they tilt onto one another – Kind of like a domino effect.
The same thing happens with your teeth. When all teeth are in position, they support each other in the mouth. So even when a bite or chewing pressure is exerted, the teeth remain in their current position. However, once a tooth is missing, the remaining teeth will start to move as they gravitate towards the gap. This may cause teeth to become further misaligned which can in some cases lead to further bite problems.
So, now you know why you should close a tooth gap – Let’s take a look at your dental options…
As already stated, both dental implants and a dental bridge have the ability to plug the missing gap. Both will restore aesthetics and bite and halt any further tooth movement. However, this is where the similarities end.
While a bridge plugs the gap of a missing tooth at crown level, a dental implant replaces the tooth at the root level.
How does a dental implant work?
A dental implant is, in reality, a metal post primarily fashioned from titanium. This is anchored down into the tooth gap. Over the coming months, surrounding bone tissue will merge and fuse with the implant to create a super-solid platform which is then used to support a lifelike crown.
What about a dental bridge – How does that work?
A conventional dental bridge is effectively two crowns contained within a framework that supports a third ‘bridging’ crown which spans the missing tooth gap. The two crowns either side of the bridging crown fit over the adjacent teeth once they have been reshaped and the bridging crown simply sits in the middle.
As you can see, two completely different methods…
But what about the dental bridge vs implant pros and cons? Let’s take a look…
Because a conventional bridging tooth simply spans the gap, it can’t stop the bone loss process from continuing. As the shape of the jaw continues to change, the longevity of a dental bridge is limited, typically only lasting 7-10 years on average.
With dental implants, however, once placed, they can last for several decades and more. Because an implant is anchored down into the jaw, it cleverly mimics the tooth root. As such because the bone tissue is now needed to support the new titanium tooth root, it’s very much in demand and therefore isn’t going to be reabsorbed back into the body. This means that any further bone loss is halted once and for all. No more jaw shrinkage!
One of the main advantages of a dental bridge over dental implants is that it’s considered to be one of the most cost-effective methods of replacing a missing tooth. Irrespective of the amount of bone loss a dental patient has suffered, a dental bridge can still be fitted.
On the contrary, dental implants need sufficient jaw bone density and width to anchor into, in order to provide the stability needed to support a crown. Often in patients with mid to long-term tooth loss, this just isn’t the case. More often than not, patients require a bone grafting procedure. This not only adds further time to the treatment period but will boost what is already a relatively expensive treatment.
That said, because dental implants are a long-term permanent replacement for a missing tooth, they can outlast conventional dental bridges by two or more times. This should be taken into consideration when weighing up any dental bridge vs implant costs.
Time taken to complete
As you’ve probably already guessed, a dental implant placement involves one or more chair-side surgical procedures and while each surgery (depending upon the technology used) takes one hour or less, there’s the little matter of recovery time.
Usually, dental implant placement takes between 4-9 months depending upon the healing abilities of the patient, so it isn’t a quick fix solution. In addition, further surgery and recovery time can be added on if a bone graft is needed.
On the contrary, a dental bridge takes just 2 visits of 1 hour to 1.30 each time to install, over a period of a couple of weeks. What’s more, no surgery time is necessary and therefore no recovery is needed. However, in order to accommodate the bridge, the adjacent teeth either side of the gap will need to be ground down and reshaped. This may compromise them. Whereas when a dental implant is fitted, it’s a standalone structure so no other teeth will be touched.
As you can see, there are many factors to take into consideration when weighing up your dental bridge vs implant conundrum. Factors like:
- Whether you’re medically fit to undergo implant surgery vs nonsurgical alternatives
- Initial costs of dental implants vs the long-term savings they bring
- Quick fix solutions vs lifetime replacements
But hopefully, this post has given you a greater insight into how dental implants and dental bridges work, how they differ and most importantly, the advantages and disadvantages of each.
If you’d like to find out more about missing tooth replacement options or would like to further discuss dental bridge vs implant pros and cons, then why not book a consultation with the team at Evergreen Dental here in Chatswood. We combine dental excellence with compassionate care, so book a consultation with our experienced team today, Call us on 02 8074 3849