Losing your teeth can sometimes put a strain on your self-confidence. Missing or extracted teeth can raise concerns about infection, but permanent solutions are available today as dental treatments have come a long way since the turn of the century.
Since implants and bridges are easy treatments to get, the questions you should ask your dentist or prosthodontist can be quite a few: What is the difference between a dental bridge and an implant? What is the most suitable treatment option for you?
Many factors will influence your decision, including something really important: whether you just lost a tooth or whether you lost it a while ago.
Both approaches present some challenges, and the treatment options for each also differ.
What is a dental bridge?
Dental bridges are used to cover the gap between one or more missing teeth. The bridge is supported by natural teeth or implants on both sides. It is made up of two or more crowns that create support on both sides of the gap.
How does it work?
As an important prerequisite, it is necessary to shave or cut the adjacent teeth, removing most of the enamel, in order to permanently cement the bridge in alignment with the other teeth and adjacent gum. Lastly, a cap is placed over each tooth, which is essentially the long bridge that covers the missing teeth underneath.
Sometimes, there are no teeth on both sides of the gap. One solution for this is to use a “cantilever bridge.” A single tooth is fixed on one side, and the bridge device is placed on top.
Some of the benefits and challenges of a bridge
- Non-surgical procedure
The entire procedure is simple; It is non-surgical, unlike implants, so it is less painful. A bridge works directly without the need for bone grafts, in the event that there is bone loss in the patient.
It is much faster to opt for a bridge than for implants. Patients are usually ready within a few weeks of preparation and then final fabrication of the bridge. Implants can take a few months.
A bridge is comparatively cheaper than an implant, which can be expensive. The affordability of a bridge makes it more common among patients who have to keep the economy in perspective.
- Easy to Chew
Chewing is easy without any discomfort.
Some disadvantages of a bridge
- Aesthetically more evident
Bridges are less aesthetically attractive than implants, since they do not appear as natural as these.
- Load on the surrounding structure
One of the main disadvantages of a bridge is that they place a large load on the surrounding structure, especially on the two teeth that are cemented to the bridge. And for that same reason, they do not last permanently, and need to be replaced periodically after every 7-10 years.
- Unnecessary tooth loss
To “prepare” the adjacent tooth, it involves a lot of shaving and stripping of a healthy tooth, which means a loss to the healthy natural tooth.
- Difficulty maintaining hygiene
Sometimes it is difficult to clean or floss the tissues and gums surrounding the bridge due to their bulky mass. Maintaining hygiene can be a challenge.
Dental implants have been a revolutionary advance in tooth replacement. They are apparently identical to natural teeth in function, strength and aesthetic appearance. They are embedded in the mouth through a surgical procedure.
How is an implant placed?
Every time you lose a tooth, it is much more than just a tooth. Bone, ligaments and nerves also end up being lost. When all of this is lost, the supporting area of the tooth begins to slowly deteriorate. A dental implant replaces the entire missing structure with a metal post, which is usually made of titanium. After a few months, new bone will grow around the implanted metal post. Once it has been properly embedded, a crown is screwed onto this metal implant and secured firmly.
An important prerequisite before having implants placed is to obtain a complete set of detailed digital radiographs and diagnostic planning. This determines the most feasible option for implant treatment.
Let’s take a comparative look at its advantages and disadvantages
Advantages of an implant
- Natural and long-lasting
Implants look just like natural teeth. They are more durable than bridges and last a lifetime.
- High success rate
It has a high success rate in terms of the desired results.
- Maintains bone structure
Maintains bone structure and prevents further bone loss.
- Prevents gum problems
They are resistant to gum problems and tooth decay due to their strong metallic composition.
- Easy to clean
They are easy to clean, and flossing between them is simple.
Disadvantages of an implant
Below are some of the disadvantages of opting for implants:
- Long Process Time
Implants take a long time and can take up to 3-6 months to fully integrate into the jaw bone, a process known as osseointegration.
- Surgical risks
They are known as implants because they are implanted through a surgical procedure, which can impose its own risks. As it is an invasive procedure, the patient feels distress and healing requires time.
Implants are very expensive compared to a bridge, and sometimes several teeth have to be replaced. Even a single implant can cost several thousand dollars.
- Other Complications
Often, additional bone is also used to implant teeth aligned with the jaw structure, making the treatment longer and somewhat complex.
Data on missing teeth by age
Between the ages of 5 and 10, how many children in Canada have cavities, fillings or missing teeth?
About 1.5 teeth
Between the ages of 15 and 34, how many Canadians have decayed, filled or missing teeth?
Approximately 4.5 missing, decayed or filled teeth requiring dental care
How many older people, between 55 and 74 years old, have cavities, fillings or missing teeth?
Senior citizens need the most dental care for missing teeth, fillings or cavities, with 22.2 teeth affected in this age group!
What would be recommended?
To conclude, your most important task is to ensure the most feasible and appropriate treatment for your missing tooth. You can take this opportunity to talk to your dentist about what treatment is best for you, as options may vary depending on individual needs. A trained dentist will carefully lay out all the particular considerations before you, in order to guide you through the best recommendation for you. By carefully writing down all the useful information, you will ensure that you have a trouble-free tooth replacement journey with satisfactory results in the end.