Dental technology has made great advances in the last 30 years. Patients with missing or extremely damaged teeth now have several great options available to replace them. Dental bridges are the time-tested method of filling the gaps in your smile. Dental implants are a newer treatment that has been steadily increasing in popularity in recent years.
But, what’s the difference between a dental bridge and a dental implant? And which treatment option is right for you? Most dentists including Dr. Cappy Sinclair and his associates at Coastal Cosmetic & Implant Dentistry in Virginia Beach, VA prefer implants due to their strength, longevity and ease of maintenance. However, numerous factors need to be considered, including if your tooth loss is recent or happened years ago.
Practical Reasons for Both
In the past, a bridge was the only choice due to the technology available at the time. A bridge involves more than just replacing the missing or damaged tooth. The adjacent teeth on either side of the gap need to be prepared by removing most of their enamel in order to place the bridge, attaching it to these teeth with crowns. With dental implants, Dr. Sinclair embeds the replacement tooth directly into the jawbone using a titanium implant screw resulting in a replacement tooth that is stronger and permanent.
Nonetheless, a dental bridge may be a good option for you if the neighboring teeth have large fillings and will need crowns or caps in the future anyway. If the tooth or teeth were lost a long time ago, the gum and bone will have receded and procedures beyond the implant- such as bone grafts- will be required before placement. The advantages and disadvantages to both procedures can ultimately be discussed with Dr. Sinclair.
Your Oral Care Routine
The steps you will need to take to keep your mouth clean and healthy will be simpler with an implant. Dental bridges are cemented in the mouth, and involve at least three crowns connected together to fill the space of the missing tooth. The connected nature of this design creates challenges when brushing and flossing, so you will need to be meticulous when cleaning.
Flossing, in particular, will require the additional step of threading the floss under the false tooth to prevent gum disease from setting in around the base of the crown. In contrast, implants replace teeth individually without affecting the adjacent teeth. You can brush and floss around an implant as you would your natural tooth, making oral care much easier and more effective.
Dental implants are more durable than bridges, providing a restoration that lasts a lifetime. The metal cylinder or post that is embedded into the jawbone is normally made of titanium or zirconia and this material fuses with your jawbone naturally as the site heals. Because it’s composed of such strong material, the implant is mostly resistant to decay. If a dental implant is properly cared for, the implant portion will last a lifetime with only the crown (the false tooth mounted on top) needing to be replaced every 15-20 years due to normal wear and tear. However, they can last longer with proper care.
On the other hand, the average life of a dental bridge is approximately 10 years at which time the entire bridge will need to be replaced. Also, because a portion of your natural tooth remains beneath it, the remaining tooth structures continue to be susceptible to decay and gum disease.
The cost of the dental bridge is less initially, but it will need to be replaced at some point in the future. Implants – from preparation to final placement – may seem more expensive up front, but can actually save you money over time as only the crown may eventually need to be replaced. Fortunately, most dental insurance providers now pay for a portion of or all of the steps involved in the implant placement process.
Both options are preferable to being self-conscious about smiling or having difficulty chewing due to missing or broken teeth. Although bridges are an older procedure, dental implants have become more common in recent years, and in most cases are the preferred method of treatment for missing teeth due to their durability and ease of care.