Tooth loss is pretty common in America. According to the American College of Prosthodontists, over 36 million people have no teeth remaining, and more than 120 million have lost at least one tooth.
Besides the apparent improvement in smile esthetics, replacing missing teeth benefits oral health, makes it easier to bite and chew food, and boosts confidence. Dental bridges and implants are two of the most popular options for replacing missing teeth and restoring a smile.
Both treatments produce a similar result, but there are key differences between the two. Understanding the difference can help you make an informed decision about your suitability. So, let's dive in and take a closer look.
As the name suggests, a dental bridge spans the gap where the missing tooth was. Treatment involves replacing the missing tooth with a false tooth bonded to natural teeth on either side of the opening.
On the contrary, a dental implant is a screwlike device placed into the jawbone and topped with a replacement tooth (dental crown). At Chesterfield Dentistry, we can also replace a row of multiple missing teeth with an implant-supported bridge placed over the top of dental implants.
Both dental implants and bridges replace missing teeth discreetly. Since an implant is placed into the jawbone beneath the gums, it remains hidden. The false teeth are custom-made to look similar in shape, size and color to your other teeth for a natural look and will feel comfortable in the mouth.
Unlike implants, dental bridges sit above the gums, so the bridge's structure can be visible behind or between the replacement teeth. However, the dentist makes every effort to ensure the bridge looks as natural as it can. Patients report that a bridge can take some getting used to, although it becomes more comfortable over time.
Dental implants may be the best option to avoid damaging any existing teeth. When a bridge is fitted, the dentist will shave the abutment teeth at either end to accommodate the crowns used to support it. Because dental implants are embedded into the jawbone, they can withstand as much pressure as natural teeth. In contrast, a dental bridge spreads pressure to the adjacent abutment teeth, which can weaken them.
Dental implants can last a patient's lifetime when cared for well. However, a dental bridge will weaken over time due to pressure and because the supporting teeth have been shaven down. With good care and regular maintenance, a dental bridge can last up to ten years and sometimes longer before it needs replacing.
Another factor to consider when deciding between the two treatments is jaw health. When a tooth and its root are lost, the adjacent teeth start to lean into the gap, and the bone that supported the tooth dissolves back into the body. A dental implant acts as an artificial tooth root to stimulate the bone and prevent tooth loss, but unfortunately, this isn't the case with a dental bridge. While a bridge prevents the adjacent teeth from shifting, it can't stop bone loss.
A dental implant functions like a natural tooth, helping the jaw remain strong and preventing the face from changing shape over time.
Dental implant treatment is typically performed in two stages. The first stage involves surgery at your dental clinic to place the implant into the jawbone at the site of the missing tooth. This is usually carried out under local anesthetic and dental sedation. A bone graft may be required before getting implants if you have suffered bone loss.
The second stage of attaching the dental crown occurs once the bone has grown around the implant. Depending on the individual's healing ability, this process can take between three to six months following implant surgery.
If you're looking to replace all of the teeth in an arch, we also offer All-on-4 implants, sometimes called same-day implants, which require fewer visits to the clinic
A dental bridge is less complicated in some circumstances than implants. Fewer dental visits are required, and bone density isn't usually a factor. During the first visit, the dentist will file down the abutment teeth and take an impression to create a mold from which the dental bridge is built. The second visit is to anchor the bridge to the abutment teeth and ensure a comfortable fit. A local anesthetic will be administered to lessen any discomfort.
In most cases, a dental bridge costs less than an implant because it is a more straightforward procedure with fewer dental visits.
An implant is a more extended procedure, requiring healing time before the final crown can be attached. Moreover, implants are made from high-quality materials, including titanium for the implant fixture and abutment and porcelain or ceramic for the crown to ensure a natural-looking finish.
Whether you opt for a bridge or an implant, you will need to take good care of it immediately after the procedure and in the long term. Flossing around a bridge may be a little more challenging, but our hygienists will show you the best way.
Not everyone can have dental implants. Certain medical conditions, such as uncontrolled diabetes and heart disease, can rule you out, and if you're a smoker, you will need to quit the habit for several weeks or months before and during the procedure. If you have gum disease, this will need to be addressed before implants can be considered.
Remember, every case is different, so it's best to speak to our dentists, who will thoroughly evaluate your oral health and discuss your best dental options.
Do you have missing teeth? Why not contact the friendly, experienced dentists at Chesterfield Dentistry to discuss your best tooth replacement options? Call at 314-936-3621 or book an appointment online.