If you have lost a tooth, it’s important to replace it. Otherwise, your other teeth may drift and your oral health may suffer. We usually have three options to replace a missing tooth: dentures, dental bridges and dental implants. Dentures are an old strategy for tooth replacement, one with numerous drawbacks. But dental bridges and dental implants are both successful strategies for tooth replacement.
Dental bridges support a replacement tooth with dental crowns over neighboring teeth. A dental implant supports them more like your natural teeth–the implant is imbedded in your bone, which means that they can look and function just like a natural tooth. Usually, we prefer a dental implant, but sometimes a dental bridge can be just as good.
Both Offer Short-Term Benefits
In the short term, a dental bridge can be as good as a dental implant. Dentures are removable and often have bulky support structures that loop wires around your teeth. But a dental bridge is bonded to your teeth–it’s fixed in your mouth, and it isn’t any bulkier than your natural teeth. The bridge is strong enough to let you bite and chew normally. You don’t have to remove a bridge for cleaning, but it does take some special care to clean under it.
Dental bridges can look very natural, too. There aren’t any supporting wires–the crowns are subtly connected to the replacement tooth at the points where the teeth would naturally touch. Someone might be able to tell where the bridge is, but they’d have to look very close and have a good eye.
Dental Implants Have More Long-Term benefits
Over time, the benefits of dental implants become clear. Dental implants are bonded to your bone like natural teeth. Like natural teeth, this stimulates the bone so that the body keeps it in place.
However, with dental bridges the body removes bone that is no longer supporting a tooth, just as it would if you had a denture or even no replacement tooth. As the bone diminishes, it can create a visible gap under the dental bridge, which mostly affects the aesthetics, but can also lead to functional problems in some cases.
And dental implants last longer than dental bridges. A dental bridge will typically last 10-15 years. We might expect the dental crown on top of an implant to last at least that long, though some last much longer. And the dental implant itself might be for life: studies show that more than 90% last about 20 years, and some have lasted more than 50 years with proper care!
Dental Bridges Are Sometimes Best
With the long-term benefits of implants, why would anyone choose a dental bridge? There are a few reasons.
First, some people don’t like the idea of dental implant surgery. No matter how much we tell them that it’s minor and doesn’t cause much discomfort, they just can’t accept the idea. Instead, they prefer the idea of a more conventional dental procedure that places dental bridges.
Other times, there might be practical reasons to choose a dental bridge. Sometimes, a person might not have enough bone to support an implant, and the bone graft required would be too risky or expensive. Maybe a person has risk factors that mean implants could be likely to fail. Perhaps the teeth next to the missing tooth have already been damaged and need crowns, which can be done as part of the dental bridge procedure, but would require extra procedures to go along with a dental implant.
Let Us Find the Best Option for You
Finding the best dental treatment option depends on a careful consideration of all the health, anatomy, and restorative factors. You can only figure out the right approach by scheduling a consultation.