If you have a missing tooth or an upcoming tooth extraction, it’s a good idea to understand your two primary options for replacing the tooth.
Both dental bridges and dental implants can work wonders to restore your smile and there’s a whole range of reasons, besides cosmetic ones, as to why you may want a bridge or implant. Both can restore your ability to chew and speak, prevent remaining teeth from drifting out of position, and maintain the shape of your face. There are several important differences between these two treatments, however.
What Is a Dental Bridge?
As the name suggests, a dental bridge literally bridges the gap between one or more missing teeth.
A bridge consists mainly of two or more crowns for the teeth on either side of the gap, known as abutment teeth, and a false tooth or teeth in the middle, known as pontics, which are made from porcelain, gold, alloys, or a combination of these materials. Either natural teeth or implants will support the dental bridge and hold it in place.
There are three main types of bridges available: traditional bridges, Maryland bonded bridges and cantilever bridges.
Traditional bridges require a crown for the abutment teeth on either side of the missing tooth with the pontic sitting in between. Traditional bridges are the most commonly found type of bridge, and they’re made from either ceramic or porcelain fused to metal.
Maryland bonded bridges, also known as a Maryland bridge or a resin bonded bridge, are made in one of a number of ways. They can be either made from porcelain, porcelain fused to metal, or as plastic teeth, with plastic gums, that are reinforced with a porcelain or metal frame.
Finally, Cantilever bridges are utilized when only one side of the missing tooth has an abutment tooth. This is an uncommon option, and tends not to be recommended for the back of the mouth due to it potentially damaging other teeth by placing too much force upon them.
What Is a Dental Implant?
A more modern alternative to the bridge, dental implants are also permanent and look and perform exactly the same as a natural tooth.
There are three main constituent parts of a dental implant: a titanium screw, referred to as the implant, which gets embedded into the jawbone and replaces the original root; a porcelain crown; and a connector, known as an abutment, which joins the two.
Dental implants are permanent due to the way in which the titanium screw is fused to the bone, and this helps implants potentially last a lifetime.
The Pros and Cons of Dental Bridges and Dental Implants
To decide which treatment option is right for you to replace a missing tooth, it’s important to compare the benefits and drawbacks of each option.
Pros of Dental Bridges
- A bridge is both a reliable and functional solution
- Only two to three dental appointments will be required to get fitted with a bridge
- In the event of loss of jaw bone, or even significant damage to the jaw bone, bridges are recommended
- No surgery is required. A straightforward dental procedure is all that’s required when fitting a bridge
- Bridges are typically more affordable than an implant
Cons of Dental Bridges
- Due to challenges with design, additional oral hygiene care will be necessary
- Bridges and crowns will need replacing every 10 to 15 years or so
- Root canal treatment can be a necessity if the tooth loss caused the nerve endings to be affected
- Any existing crowns on the abutment teeth will have to be re-crowned prior to fitting the bridge
The Pros of a Dental Implant
- An implant can last a lifetime
- Adjacent teeth will not be affected in any way by the treatment
- If required, it’s possible for more than just the one implant to be fitted during the same surgical procedure
- Dental implants are less at risk of gum disease than a bridge
- Provided there is sufficient support with the gums and the bone, implants can be installed in just one day
- An implant performs just like a natural tooth and stops loss of jaw bone that results with the loss of teeth by stimulating the bone
Cons of Dental Implants
- Minor surgery is required
- While an implant is less expensive in the long term than a bridge, it has a higher upfront cost
- Implants need more time to plan and prep than a bridge
- Following the surgery for the installation of the implant, healing and recovery time will be required before the permanent new tooth replacement can be fitted.