A tooth’s fundamental structure is complex and beyond what your eyes can see. Losing a tooth can interfere with this structure that includes the bone, nerves, and ligaments. The two most common solutions for missing teeth are dental implants and dental bridges. Both procedures address the challenges that come with the loss of a tooth or more by improving functionality and appearance. And for you to make an informed decision on which treatment option best suits you, you need to understand both procedures at a technical level.
These are artificial roots that are surgically infused to the jawbone to replace a missing tooth. The implants are often made from titanium, although suitable metals like gold, stainless steel, and nickel-chromium can also be used. Within 3 to 6 months after the implant is secured, the new bone starts to grow around it, and once secure enough a crown will be screwed onto the implant and sealed. Your dentist may first install a temporary crown to give the implant time to fuse with the jawbone, before proceeding to place a permanent crown.
Unlike implants, dental bridges are less invasive and simpler to install. The procedure does not attempt to replace the root and instead relies on the adjacent teeth to support the crown that will fill the gap of a missing tooth. The tooth or teeth offering support for the bridge are known as abutment teeth. They first need to be reshaped and then an impression of the new shape is made to help construct the bridge. Once the bridge is ready, dental cement is used to attach it to the abutment teeth or tooth.
There are certain requirements you need to meet to be an eligible patient for either implants or bridges.
To qualify for implants, you need to have undergone complete bone growth. The procedure is therefore not suitable for toddlers, pre-teens and teens. At your first consultation with a dentist, some tests including X-ray or CT scans may be performed. The tests are usually to help determine bone density and quality as well as if there are specific risk factors. Patients with cancer, diabetes, and periodontal disease will require additional treatment before they qualify to get implants.
The candidacy for fixed dental bridges, on the other hand, seems less restrictive. The ultimate deciding factor is the health and stability of the adjacent teeth. Any type of oral diseases such as tooth decay, periodontal disease or tooth damage may need extra treatment to make the teeth healthy enough to act as abutment teeth.
Both procedures deliver close to a natural appearance of real teeth. An advantage of choosing bridges is that if you find the abutment teeth less attractive, you can shape the bridge to a more likable shape. Bridges are often made from porcelain to match them to the rest of your teeth. The crown of implants is also made from porcelain to resemble the tooth enamel. And while the appearance of both procedures is remarkably good, implants give the best appearance and natural feel too.
Implants will last for fifteen years or even longer if properly cared for. The care procedure remains the same, requiring you to brush and floss like normal and also visit your dentist regularly. A plus side of implants is that they ensure little to no bone and gum loss, thus posing no risk to your oral and overall health.
Bridges, on the other hand, will last for 5 to 7 years before the need for replacement. You will also need to adjust your flossing and brushing techniques to ensure proper care. Since the procedure does nothing to rehabilitate the missing root, you may experience some bone and gum loss.
For most patients, especially those lacking the technical understanding, the decision to get implants or bridges often comes down to the cost.
Implants are more costly since the procedure is intensive and complex compared to bridges. You require several visits to the dentists before it is successful and is also not covered by most insurance companies.
Bridges are covered by most insurance companies and this reduces the cost impact on the patient. Since the procedure is less restrictive and less complex, its cost is quite lower compared to implants.
Both dental bridges and implants work as great replacements for missing teeth. When deciding between the two, always do so under the guidance of a skilled and certified dentist, to ensure best results.