If you want to replace a missing tooth, you are in good company - about 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. Although it is common, a missing tooth can cause other dental issues, such as a change in bite or even bone loss. In this blog, we will compare dental bridges and dental implants as means of replacing a missing tooth.
A dental bridge is a way to replace one or more missing teeth. Dental bridges can be used if there is at least one healthy tooth on either side of the missing tooth. Unlike dentures, a bridge is usually a fixed solution that is not removable. This method of replacing missing teeth involves connecting (or bridging) two existing teeth with a replacement tooth, often made of porcelain. The teeth on either side of the missing tooth must be cut or filed down and "capped" to hold the replacement tooth in place.
Dental implants are another popular method of replacing missing teeth. Think of a dental implant as an artificial tooth root holding the replacement tooth or teeth in place. A dental implant is not the replacement tooth itself, rather, it can be used to hold the replacement tooth (usually a crown, bridge, or denture) in place.
In terms of durability, dental implants are unquestionably more durable than bridges. A dental implant is a titanium “screw” that is surgically inserted into the jaw bone where it actually fuses with the bone through a process called osseointegration. Because implants fuse with bone, they are nearly as strong as a natural tooth, and can typically only be removed through surgery. Titanium Implants are very resistant to decay and gum problems, and after healing, require no changes to your proper oral care routine.
On the other hand, the average lifespan of a dental bridge is approximately 10 years. A portion of the natural tooth remains beneath the bridge and normal wear may cause the bridge to crack or break over time. Although a dental bridge may be supported by an implant, they often rest directly on the gum where they can allow bacteria to accumulate. In general, the remaining tooth structure continues to be susceptible to decay and gum disease.
Aesthetically speaking, both implants and bridges have their uses, and there isn’t a simple answer. If the teeth surrounding the missing tooth are healthy and in good shape, there may not be the need to cap them in preparation for a bridge. However, if the teeth on either side of the missing tooth are showing signs of decay, it may be in your best interest to have them capped and replaced with a bridge anyway. In general, though, the implant will often provide the most pleasing result, as the dentist can make the final tooth look just like your natural enamel.
While the cost of the dental bridge is initially less, it doesn’t last as long as an implant and will likely need to be replaced at some point in the future. Implants may seem more expensive, but they are actually a more cost-effective solutions because they can last a lifetime and are resistant to decay. In addition, the process for dental implants is often done in steps, and many patients are able to pay as they go.
Because a dental bridge rests directly on the gums, it allows food and bacteria to accumulate if not cared for properly. Cleaning around and under a dental bridge often requires adding another step to a dental care routine. A dental implant, on the other hand requires no special care after it is healed.
Another consideration is that of bone health. Think of the jaw bone as a “use-it-or-lose-it” body part, susceptible to atrophy if not exercised by the teeth. Without the tooth root allowing the jaw bone to exercise, the bone starts to shrink, which can cause changes in bite and the facial profile. Because the dental implant is essentially a replacement tooth root (not just a replacement tooth, like a bridge), it allows the jaw bone to continue to exercise and resist atrophy.
Although dental bridges are an older procedure, dental implants have become the more commonplace procedure. While only you can decide how to replace your missing tooth the dentists at White River Dental are happy to guide you through the decision. We have the experience, tools, and knowledge to help you find the right choice for your wants, needs, and budget. Connect with us on Facebook, submit the online contact form below, or give us a call today at (812)378-2041.