Your teeth are important, and losing a tooth can be devastating for someone’s confidence. However, if this happens, you have options available. Both dental implants and dental bridges have their advantages and disadvantages, and deciding which one is right is more than a matter of preference.
We’ll talk you through both procedures and help you understand which is the right choice for you.
What Is a Dental Implant?
Let’s start by discussing dental implants. They are more than false teeth: they have an artificial root that holds them in place. These prosthetic teeth are secured to the jaw or skull, acting as an anchor for a new tooth or crown.
What Is a Dental Bridge?
A dental bridge is a false tooth (or teeth) that relies on the surrounding teeth to keep it in place. They can be made from porcelain or plastic. In a nutshell, they close any gaps you may have between your teeth.
While a bridge can be a form of a dental implant, it’s most often simply affixed to the teeth that surround your gap.
Dental Implants vs. Bridges
It may be difficult to choose between the two. While dental implants are more secure and tend to last longer, a dental bridge is often less invasive and may be more affordable.
Various factors can affect the decision between implants or a bridge, including:
- Number of teeth you need to replace
- The overall cost compared to your budget
- How often you will want to replace your new teeth
As you make your decision, it’s important to compare several aspects of implants vs. bridges.
Here, dental implants are the clear winners in this category. Provided you care for your dental implant, it can last 15 years or longer.
For the best results, you need to maintain good oral hygiene by brushing twice a day and flossing. Depending on the location of the implant, you may want to avoid certain foods or habits like eating hard candy or biting into apples.
In comparison, dental bridges can last over ten years with proper care. That’s almost as long as dental implants, but dental bridges wear much faster, so you’ll likely need to replace them with more frequency. So, while dentists take care to match the bridged tooth to your existing teeth and make it look as natural as possible, there’s no telling how long that authenticity will last.
It’s an unfortunate reality that as time passes, the dental bridge looks progressively less natural. An implant tends to look more natural and blend in with the rest of your teeth for longer.
Damage to Surrounding Teeth
This one is another benefit of dental implants: they don’t typically affect the surrounding teeth. You can attach a dental implant to its screw while preserving the health and structure of your other teeth.
This procedure is different with bridges, which require you to whittle down a tooth on either side of the bridge to accommodate the dental bridge. This not only damages your remaining teeth, but also increases the likelihood that you’ll need further dental work (or even a wider bridge) in the future.
Implants require surgery, while bridges don’t. Most dentists install dental implants with you under general anesthetic, so while you won’t feel anything, you won’t be able to drive yourself home after the appointment, either.
It’s also possible you may need a bone graft. This can happen if, for instance, your adult teeth never grew in and the bone marrow there went unused for too long.
When a bone graft is necessary, dentists can graft bone from a different part of the jaw. However, it’s more common to substitute bone from another animal, often pigs, to encourage bone regeneration. In this case, you must ensure the graft took and settled in place before implanting the metal screws.
Dental bridges never require a bone graft. In this sense, dental bridges are not as invasive as dental implants.
Without the need for surgery, a dental bridge can be attached in a matter of weeks.
Dental implants are a multi-step process. If the surrounding area on your jaw is damaged, you’ll need a bone graft. Then, once you have healed, the screw will be installed into your jaw.
However, you can’t simply embed the screw and then fit the implant on top. Instead, you need to install the screw in the jaw and leave it for several weeks, so osseointegration can occur. This process gives your mouth time to heal from the surgery and ensures your body doesn’t try and attack the foreign object now in your jaw.
Once the dental surgeon is sure that your jaw has healed well, then they can install the crown that acts as a new tooth.
If the expense of your dental care is a concern, a significant benefit to the dental bridge is that it costs less. This price drop is because the procedure is less involved than that of the dental implant. It’s also less invasive since there’s no need to open up your gums and graft bone.
Another reason dental bridges often cost less is that insurance is more likely to cover them. Whereas insurance usually covers a dental bridge as a necessary procedure, the same isn’t true of implants. Even though it will depend on your insurer, they usually do not cover the full procedure. So, talk to them before booking an appointment.
Risk of Cavities
With bridges, you may have a higher risk of cavities. Because you have to alter the nearby teeth to accommodate the bridge, you risk damaging their integrity and durability. That opens you up to more cavities than you would experience with the teeth intact.
Because you haven’t damaged any nearby teeth with implants, you don’t increase your likelihood of developing cavities.
Which is right for you?
You’ll need to talk to your dentist to decide whether a dental bridge or implant is right for you.
If you’ve been recommended for dental implants or a dental bridge, get in touch today. Our knowledgeable team will ensure you and your teeth are in safe hands, and that you get the procedure you need to promote the best oral health possible.