Missing teeth can be a pain, literally and figuratively. Not only can they affect your ability to chew and speak clearly, but they can also affect your confidence. 

Luckily, modern dentistry offers two excellent solutions for replacing missing teeth: dental implants and bridges.

But which one is right for you?

This blog post dives deep into the world of dental implants and bridges, unpacking the pros, cons, and key differences between these two popular options. 

We will explore factors like dental implants and bridges procedure type, longevity, and cost to help you make the most informed decision for your smile’s health and happiness.

Note: Whether a dental implant or bridge is the right choice depends on your unique situation. At Enhance Dental Center, our experienced dentists can conduct a thorough examination and discuss all your options. 

We understand a beautiful smile is an investment, and we are here to help you make an informed decision that best suits your needs and budget. Contact Enhance Dental Center today to schedule a consultation and get started on your journey to a healthy, confident smile!

A person having full mouth dental implant

What are Dental Implants?

Dental implants are artificial tooth roots surgically placed into your jawbone. They are typically made of titanium, a biocompatible material that fuses with the jawbone through a process called osseointegration.

A temporary protective cover screw is inserted during the osseointegration process, which can last up to six months.

After osseointegration, a temporary crown is placed around the implant, serving as a template for gum growth and shape. The process is completed when the temporary crown is replaced by a permanent one.

Dental bridge

What are Dental Bridges?

Dental bridges are fixed dental restorations that literally bridge the gap created by one or more missing teeth. Unlike implants, bridges rely on neighboring teeth for support. 

These neighboring teeth, called abutment teeth, are ground down to accommodate crowns. The crowns are then attached to artificial teeth (pontics) in the center, effectively “bridging” the space where the missing teeth were.

The procedure is not nearly as long as the implant process (which necessitates osseointegration); yet, because the surrounding teeth must be permanently altered in order to support the bridge, it is somewhat more invasive. 

Dental Implants Pros

1- Durability

Unlike dentures that may need to be replaced every 5-7 years or bridges that can last around 10 years, dental implants are built to last a lifetime with proper care. 

The titanium implant screw fuses with your jawbone, providing a strong foundation for the restoration. 

2- Natural Look and Feel

Dental implants are designed to mimic the structure of natural teeth, including the root. This not only enhances aesthetics but also provides a natural biting and chewing sensation. 

The crown, which is the visible part of the implant, is custom-made to match the size, shape, and color of your surrounding teeth, resulting in a seamless and natural look.

3- Improved Oral Health

Unlike bridges, which require grinding down healthy teeth to support the structure, dental implants are placed independently in the jawbone. 

This preserves the health of your surrounding teeth and reduces the risk of future cavities or gum disease.

4- Bone Preservation

Dental implants stimulate the jawbone, preventing bone loss that naturally occurs after tooth loss. This helps maintain facial structure and prevents a sunken-in appearance.

5- Increased Confidence

With a complete and natural-looking smile restored, dental implants can significantly boost your confidence and self-esteem. You can enjoy all your favorite foods without worrying and smile freely in social situations.

Dental Implants Cons

1- Surgical Procedure

Implant placement is a surgical procedure that requires anesthesia and incisions in the gum tissue. While considered routine, it still carries some surgical risks like infection or bleeding.

2- Healing time

The osseointegration process, where the implant fuses with the jawbone, can take several months. During this time, you may need temporary restorations and will need to follow specific dietary restrictions.

3- Cost

Dental implants are generally the most expensive option for replacing missing teeth. The cost can vary depending on the number of implants needed, the complexity of the procedure, and your geographic location. Dental insurance may not cover the entire cost.

4- Not Suitable for Everyone

Certain medical conditions or risk factors, such as uncontrolled diabetes or severe gum disease, may make you a poor candidate for dental implants.

5- Potential for Complications

While rare, some potential complications associated with dental implants include nerve damage, sinus problems, and implant failure.

Dental Bridge Pros

1- Relatively Less Invasive Procedure

Compared to dental implants, getting a bridge typically requires less surgery. The dentist will need to prepare the abutment teeth by grinding them down slightly to accommodate the crowns, but no major incisions are required.

2- Cost-effective

Bridges are generally less expensive than dental implants. The cost will depend on the number of teeth being replaced, the materials used, and your dentist’s fees, but they are typically a more affordable option.

3- Faster Treatment Process

The dental bridge procedure can usually be completed in just two or three appointments. Once the abutment teeth are prepared, a temporary bridge will be placed while the permanent bridge is custom-made in a dental lab. 

In contrast, dental implants require multiple appointments spread over several months to allow for osseointegration (fusion of the implant with the jawbone).

4- Improved Aesthetics

Bridges can significantly improve your smile by filling in the gaps left by missing teeth. The pontic (the artificial tooth) is custom-made to match the appearance of your surrounding teeth, resulting in a natural-looking restoration. 

Dental Bridge Cons

1- Requires Altering Healthy Teeth

Unlike implants, bridges rely on healthy teeth on either side of the gap for support. These teeth, called abutment teeth, need to be ground down to accommodate crowns that will hold the bridge in place. 

This weakens the structure of the healthy teeth and increases the risk of future cavities or gum disease around the crowns.

2- Doesn’t Address Bone Loss

Bridges sit above the gum line and do not stimulate the jawbone like dental implants. When a tooth is missing, the jawbone beneath it begins to deteriorate over time. This can lead to facial collapse and further tooth loss in the long run.

3- Shorter Lifespan

Compared to implants that can potentially last a lifetime, bridges typically have a lifespan of 5-15 years. 

They may need to be replaced due to wear and tear, damage to the abutment teeth, or changes in the jawbone.

4- More Maintenance

While bridges are relatively easy to care for, they require more maintenance than implants. The area underneath the bridge can be difficult to clean properly, increasing the risk of decay and gum disease. Flossing under the bridge is crucial and may require special tools.

5- Potential for Discomfort

The process of grinding down the abutment teeth can be uncomfortable, and some patients may experience sensitivity or discomfort after the bridge is placed. Additionally, bridges can sometimes irritate the gums if not fitted properly.

Dental Implants Procedure

Dental Implants Procedure

The dental implant procedure is an outpatient procedure performed in stages over several months. The initial consultation involves a thorough examination of the mouth, teeth, and jawbone, followed by X-rays or CT scans to assess bone density and suitability for implants.

The medical team creates a treatment plan that includes the number and location of implants, type of anesthesia, and potential risks.

The first surgical procedure involves placing the dental implant, typically a titanium screw, into the jawbone. The dentist makes an incision in the gum tissue and drills a small hole in the jawbone to accommodate the implant. Stitches may be used to close the gum tissue around the implant.

The healing and osseointegration phase allows the jawbone to heal and fuse with the implant, which can take several months. During this time, a temporary restoration, such as a denture or flipper, is likely worn to maintain aesthetics.

A second minor surgery may be needed to place an abutment on the implant, providing a foundation for the artificial tooth (crown). 

In some cases, the abutment and surrounding teeth are placed together, creating a custom-made crown that matches the size, shape, and color of the natural teeth.

Recovery and aftercare involve swelling, discomfort, and minor bleeding. Your dentist prescribes pain medication and provides instructions for proper care of the implant site. 

Maintaining good oral hygiene with regular brushing, flossing, and dental checkups is crucial for the long-term success of dental implants and overall oral health.

Dental Bridges Procedure

The dental bridge procedure involves multiple appointments spread over a few weeks, unlike dental implants, which can take several months. 

The initial visit involves a dental examination to assess teeth, gums, and jaw health, with X-rays or scans taken to determine if the surrounding teeth are strong enough to support a bridge. 

The dentist will discuss goals and expectations, create a treatment plan, and numb the area with local anesthesia.

The dentist will prepare abutment teeth on either side of the gap, grinding down a portion of the enamel and dentin to create the foundation for the crowns that will hold the bridge in place.

Temporary bridge placement is done, and impressions of the teeth and prepared area are sent to a dental lab for custom-made permanent bridges. A temporary bridge is placed over the prepared teeth to protect them and maintain aesthetics.

Once the permanent bridge is fabricated, the dentist will remove the temporary bridge and check the fit and color of the bridge. If everything looks good, the bridge is permanently cemented onto the prepared abutment teeth.

Post-operative care includes pain management and proper cleaning techniques. Maintaining good oral hygiene with regular brushing, flossing, and dental checkups is essential for the long-term success of the bridge and overall oral health.

The Cost of Implants vs Bridges

Dental implants are more expensive, ranging from $900 to $3,000 per implant, while dental bridges may cost less, ranging from $700 to $1,500. 

Both treatments do not include any additional treatments or therapies. However, implants are more durable and can last 40 years or longer if cared for properly. 

A dental bridge may last between 10 and 20 years before needing replacement. Despite the short-term cost and time, implants may save both time and money over the lifetime of your smile.

Conclusion 

Both dental implants and bridges are excellent options for replacing missing teeth, but the best choice for you will depend on your individual needs and priorities. Here’s a quick recap:

If durability and long-term health are your top concerns, then dental implants are the way to go. They last longer, prevent bone loss, and don’t require altering adjacent teeth.

If you’re on a budget and prefer a quicker procedure, then a dental bridge may be a better option. Bridges are generally less expensive and require fewer appointments.

Ultimately, consulting with a dentist is the best way to determine which option is right for you. They can assess your oral health, discuss your goals, and recommend the most suitable course of treatment.

FAQs:

1- Is it better to have a bridge or an implant?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to whether a bridge or implant is better. Implants are generally better for long-term health and aesthetics, but bridges are quicker, less expensive, and require no surgery. Discuss with your dentist to decide which is best for you.

2- Are dental bridges more expensive than implants?

The upfront cost of a dental bridge is significantly lower than that of a dental implant. 

3- How long do teeth implants last for?

Dental implants are a long-term solution for missing teeth, with proper care allowing them to last up to 20 years, with studies suggesting even longer lifespans. It’s important to emphasize this to patients.