Make the best choice for your oral health.
At some point, someone has probably given you the line, “Life is full of choices.” As we move through life, we learn not just how true this is, but that the key to making good choices is often having plenty of knowledge to help us make them. When you’ve lost a tooth, it’s natural to want to ensure that you make the best choice available to replace it. Thankfully, modern dentistry has several tooth replacement options to choose from, including dental bridges or implants. But which is better? Is a bridge better than an implant, or is it the other way around? It’s normal to ask these questions, but the truth is a little more complicated than telling you that one is always better than the other.
Bridges and dental implants both replace missing teeth, but they go about it in different ways, which also gives them unique strengths and weaknesses. Everyone’s treatment needs and preferences are different, so the best treatment for you might look different from someone else’s. Knowing how bridges and implants compare allows you to make an informed decision, helping you feel confident that you’ll love your treatment results. To help you make the best decision for you, we’ve put together the basics of dental bridges versus implants.
How does each treatment work?
Dental bridges work much like their namesake to bridge the gap in your smile. They’re generally made of porcelain and consist of one or two prosthetic teeth with a dental crown on either end. These dental crowns function as the bridge’s foundation, so they’re placed over teeth on either side of the gap in your smile with the prosthetic teeth suspended between them. On the other hand, dental implants consist of a titanium metal rod that’s embedded into your jaw to replace your missing tooth root, which is capped with a tooth replacement option like an implant crown. Multiple implants can be capped with a dental bridge or implant-supported dentures to replace anywhere from two to all of your teeth. The titanium metal that makes up the rod is biocompatible, so it actually encourages your jawbone to grow around it and secure it more thoroughly in place—just like a natural tooth root!
What problems are they used to solve?
When you lose one or more teeth, the remaining healthy teeth in your mouth begin to shift into the new gap. Bridges and dental implants both prevent this, which prevents a range of future oral health problems. This includes preventing cavities and gum disease by ensuring that your teeth remain well-spaced and therefore easier to floss and brush thoroughly. Keeping your teeth from shifting also prevents your bite from changing, which keeps your teeth looking even and prevents potential TMJ issues in the future. Bridges and dental implants also both restore the function of your missing tooth or teeth, providing the strength and stability you need to eat normally. However, the deep-rooted stability of dental implants gives them a slight edge over bridges because they’re able to act just like a natural tooth. You won’t have to worry about them—or think about them at all—when you eat!
Dental implants are the only tooth replacement option that replaces your natural tooth root, so they provide several unique advantages that no treatment can match. Your natural tooth roots stimulate your jawbone to keep it healthy, but this stimulation generally goes away when you lose a tooth, leading to bone loss in that part of your jaw. Dental implants fill the role of your natural tooth root, preventing bone loss by providing the stimulation your jawbone needs to stay healthy. Since bone grows around the titanium rod during the healing process, implants can even reverse some bone loss! By doing this, implants keep your jawbone strong and protect the shape of your face. That said, you need a certain level of healthy bone density to receive implants, so they’re not an ideal option for everyone. Bone grafts can resolve this for some people, but if you already have extensive bone loss in your jaw, bridges might be the best option for you.
What maintenance does each restoration require?
Whether you get a bridge or dental implant, taking care of your oral health is incredibly important for the health of your remaining teeth and the longevity of your dental restoration. You’ll need to commit to a great at-home oral hygiene routine, including flossing at least once a day, brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day, and using mouthwash every day. You should also schedule an appointment with your dentist every six months, as professional dental cleanings play an active role in preventing decay and can give your dentist the chance to spot oral health issues like cavities or gum disease early, before they can threaten your natural teeth or your dental restoration.
If you decide to get dental implants, the good news is they require the same level of care as your natural teeth, making them incredibly easy to care for with a great oral hygiene routine. Bridges only require a little more maintenance than dental implants, so they’re still very simple to care for at home. When you brush and floss your teeth, you’ll also need to use a special brush to clean underneath the false teeth. This is a simple step that doesn’t take very long, but it’s essential for keeping the gums underneath your bridge healthy.
How long does each last?
Taking great care of your bridge or implant is worth spending a few minutes on your oral hygiene routine every day. When you do, it generally allows your restoration to last longer. Bridges have the potential to last around 15 years or more when they’re cared for well, while dental implants can last even longer. The restoration capping your dental implant may need to be replaced periodically due to wear and tear, but the implant itself should last an entire lifetime.
How do they compare when it comes to cost?
We all know what it’s like to plan around a budget, so you might find yourself asking, “Great, but what about the cost? Is an implant cheaper than a bridge?” These treatments both vary in price based on how many and which teeth you’re replacing, so it’s hard to pin down a specific cost for them without looking at your unique case. That said, a dental bridge is generally the least expensive option in the short term. Dental implants cost more up front largely because they’re placed using surgical procedures, but their ability to last a lifetime and protect against bone loss in your jaw saves you money from treatments you might otherwise need in the future and adds long-term value that makes the initial cost worth it for many patients. When you visit our office for a consultation, we can provide you with an estimate for the cost of each treatment, including how much your insurance is likely to cover.
Give us a call to discuss which restoration option is best for you.
Bridges and dental implants have their own strengths and weaknesses, but they’re both effective methods of restoring and protecting the health, function, and appearance of missing teeth. In the end, which treatment is best for you depends on your treatment needs as well as your personal preferences. If you’d like to learn more about bridges or dental implants and which might be right for you, feel free to call our office and schedule a consultation at any time!