There are several options when it comes to replacing missing teeth. Removable appliances are often less expensive but come in and out of your mouth. Fixed restorations, like bridges or implants, remain in your mouth and feel more like natural teeth.
So, what’s the difference between a bridge and an implant? And which is the right choice for you? Read on to find out.
Bridge or implant for missing tooth
Bridges and implants both replace missing natural teeth. And unlike partials and dentures, they don’t have to be taken out to go in a cup at night.
Dental bridges attach to natural teeth on either side of the missing tooth. This “bridges” the gap and hangs an artificial tooth above the gum tissue.
When a tooth is replaced with a bridge, an impression of the mouth is first taken. This is used later to make a temporary bridge.
After numbing, the teeth next to the space are shaped for the anchoring crowns, called abutments. An impression of the prepared teeth is then taken to send to the dental laboratory.
A temporary bridge is made out of dental acrylic to wear while the permanent restorations are made. This may take a week to two weeks. Once complete, the temporary bridge is removed and the permanent bridge can be cemented in place.
Dental bridges look great and only take a few weeks to complete. On the other hand, additional healthy teeth must be cut down for crowns. Bridges are also notorious for trapping food underneath.
Dental implants attach to the bone of the jaw instead of adjacent teeth, just like a natural tooth root. This allows for a great looking tooth replacement without having to damage other teeth. But a dental implant procedure requires surgery.
The dental implant procedure begins with taking 3D images of your jaws. This will allow the dentist to know where crucial structures are like nerves and the sinus cavities.
After numbing, a small incision is made in your gums at the site of implant placement. A small hole is then created in the bone with a dental handpiece. A custom surgical guide is used to make sure this is done safely and precisely.
Once the site is ready, a titanium dental implant is placed into the space. This acts the same as a tooth root would. The titanium will actually fuse to the bone as it heals, creating a strong anchor.
After the implant has had time to heal, a metal abutment is placed on top of the implant. A dental impression is taken of the area to send to a dental laboratory. Once finished, the final crown is cemented into place.
Both dental bridges and implants can look very natural! They are both topped with custom, laboratory-made crowns covered with porcelain. The main differences are the gum line and the spaces between teeth.
Dental bridges can sometimes have a gap underneath them, between the bridge and gums. This affects the natural appearance and can also act as a food trap.
It’s also sometimes obvious that the teeth on a bridge are all connected together.
Dental implants are attached to the gums, so there is no space like in a bridge. Occasionally, however, the metal implant can appear as a dark spot on the gums.
Dental bridges and dental implants are both cemented in place. Unlike dentures or partials, these restorations do not move when you talk or eat.
A dental bridge sits on natural teeth. Over time, these teeth may decay or have bone loss around them.
The shape of a natural tooth under a crown may not hold the crown very well either. You are dependant on the dental cement to hold the bridge in place.
Because of these factors, dental bridges usually last 5-7 years on average.
A dental implant is fused to the bone. The abutment head that is under the crown is machined to hold onto crowns very well. And these metal abutments cannot decay like natural teeth.
A dental implant can often last a lifetime.
Care & maintenance
Taking care of dental implants and bridges is mainly a matter of keeping them clean.
Implants can’t decay, but they can still get gum disease. Keeping the area clean can keep bone levels healthy and implants solid for many years.
Bridges must also be kept clean. It is a little more difficult due to the fact that bridge teeth are fused together. You cannot floss between the teeth.
This is in addition to the fact that bridges tend to trap food underneath them. Special floss threaders or a water flosser may help keep it clean. Otherwise, you risk bone loss and decayed tooth roots.
Depending on the number of teeth being replaced, the cost of a bridge can be similar to the cost of dental implants. A single implant and crown is about the same price as three crowns needed for a bridge.
What is better for replacing multiple teeth?
We have discussed replacing a single tooth, but what about multiple teeth. Or ALL teeth?
In general, teeth replaced with implants will have fewer issues over time than a long bridge on natural teeth. Natural teeth as anchors simply have more things that can go wrong.
Bridges over implants do not have the same issues as on natural teeth. Implant bridges take advantage of both restorations and have a long history of success. Full arches of teeth can be replaced with as few as four implants and a fixed bridge.
The best example of this is the G4 Implant Solution. Dr. Golpa has perfected the art of full mouth implant placement.
The G4 procedure can replace an entire mouth of teeth with beautiful, fixed implant bridges in just one 24 hour period. Visit our website today to find out if the G4 Implant Solution is right for you!