Dental Implants vs Bridges: How to Know What's Best for You

Should you get a dental implant or a bridge? To ensure you make the right choice, you need to know these facts, pros, and cons about each option.

dentals implants vs. bridges

Photo by Partha D. Sahana via flickr

What are Dental Implants?

This is a good option if you have lost a tooth or teeth to an injury, periodontal disease, or other reasons. A dental implant is a titanium post (acting as a tooth root) that supports a crown. It is surgically inserted into the jawbone where it will then fuse (or osseointegrate) into the jawbone to ensure that it is anchored in position. After the osseointegration process is finished (usually 3-6 months), an abutment is attached to the post frame. It protrudes above the gum line to provide the area where the dental crown is cemented or screwed into.

Types of Implants

Endosteal implants
Endosteal implants are directly implanted into the jawbone during surgery. A second surgery is needed to connect the post to the first implant once the gum tissue is healed. Last, an artificial tooth is mounted to the post.

Subperiosteal implants
With subperiosteal implants, a metal frame is fitted onto the jawbone right below the gum tissue. The frame becomes fixed to the jawbone as the gums heal. Once ready, the artificial tooth is attached to the post.

Pros and Cons of Dental Implants

Pros

  • Little maintenance
    One big perk about dental implants is that they can last a lifetime when they are high quality. They require little maintenance.

  • Natural looking
    Dental implants look, feel, and function like a natural tooth. They are strong and stable, and they keep your smile confident.

  • Protect Your Jawbone
    Having an open space in your mouth where a missing tooth once was puts your jawbone at risk for deterioration. Dental implants stimulate and preserve natural bone growth, which helps prevent bone loss.

  • No Strain on Teeth
    Unlike a bridge, an implant stands on it’s own support without putting strain on other teeth. This helps to protect surrounding teeth.

Cons

  • Surgery
    Because the implant must be attached to your bone, it requires surgery. And there are always risks to consider with any kind of surgical procedure. Some of the risks include infection, nerve damage, damage to surrounding teeth, jaw fractures, and more.

  • Time
    Getting a tooth implant is not something that can be done in a single office visit. Bone heals slowly, to the entire procedure can take several months, around 3 months on the fast end.

  • Cost
    Now, the cost will vary depending on the type of implant and the conditions of the tooth issue. Still, the high cost associated with getting a dental implant is often what deters people from considering this procedure.

What are Dental Bridges?

Dental bridges are used to bridge the gap between one or more missing teeth. The bridge is supported by the natural teeth or implants on either side. It is made up of two or more crowns for the teeth on each part of the gap. The anchoring teeth are called abutment teeth, and the false teeth that lie in between are called pontics.

Types of Bridges

Traditional bridges

This type of bridge is most common one, and it’s usually made of either ceramics or porcelain fused to metal. The bridge is created by a crown for the tooth or implant on either side of the gap, and the pontic lies in between.

Cantilever Bridges

This type of bridge is not as common as the traditional bridge, and it is not recommended for the back of the mouth where it will receive much force. Cantilever bridges are used when there are adjacent teeth found on only one side of the gap of missing teeth.

Maryland Bonded Bridges

With this type of bridge, the resin-bonded bridge is made of porcelain, porcelain fused to metal, or plastic teeth supported by a porcelain or metal framework. The existing teeth on either side of the gap are bonded to the metal or porcelain wings on the bridge.

Pros and Cons of Dental Bridges

Pros

  • Simple procedure
    Unlike dental implants, bridges don’t require surgery, making bridges a lot less painful. All it takes is a simple dental procedure to get your teeth fixed.

  • Faster
    It’s much quicker and easier to get dental bridges (only a few weeks at the most), whereas implants may take several months.

  • Affordable
    Bridges are generally more affordable than implants, and they are still strong and supportive for your mouth.

Cons

  • Less Aesthetically Pleasing
    Bridges are not as natural looking as implants, and therefore are not as aesthetically pleasing.

  • Periodic Replacement
    Bridges need to be replaced periodically. They should be changed every 5-7 years.

  • Damage Natural Teeth
    Adjacent teeth undergo a lot of preparation that requires the removal of a considerable amount of tooth structure. 

What should you choose?

Comparing the Costs

As you can see in the chart below, the price of a dental bridge can vary dramatically. Still, it may or may not end up being a more affordable option than a dental implant.

Cost-of-Implants-vs.-Bridges.png

Other things to consider:

Dental Coverage

Are you covered for either one of these dental procedures? While bridges are usually covered by most dental insurance plans, implants are rarely covered. If you don’t have insurance or you want to find a more affordable option, you can consider joining a discount dental plan membership that provides discounted rates on these types of procedures.

Procedure Duration

How long are you willing to wait to have your teeth fixed? A bridge can be fixed in 2 or 3 visits to the dentist, having it done in no time. An implant is a long procedure that requires surgeries and recovery times over the span of several months.

Lifespan

The long lifespan and little maintenance associated with dental implants makes patients over the age of 40 good candidates for this procedure. They may need to be replaced every 15 years or so do to natural wear and tear. Bridges, while more affordable, must be replaced every 5-7 years, and possibly 10 years with the proper care and maintenance.

What works best for you will really depend on your unique situation. Everything from your access to affordable dental care, to the state of your oral health, to basic finances will ultimately determine whether you need a dental bridge or a dental implant.

Charts from: http://www.dentalimplantcostguide.com/resources/#bridgecomparison%27

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