Losing teeth not only creates functional issues, but also has an impact on the look of your smile. Missing teeth can also affect your self-confidence negatively. As a result, dental professionals use two common solutions to address this problem. These approaches include using dental implants, dental bridges, or both depending on the situation at hand.
While both methods address the same issue, they are very different from a technical aspect, with each approach best suited for a particular problem. If you are looking for the best solution for your missing teeth, it is vital to understand both treatment options. You should also know the pros and cons of using each method before deciding if it is best suited for your specific needs. Below is a summary of all you need to know about dental implants and dental bridges and how to find what is best for you.
The human tooth is a very complex structure. When you remove a tooth, the surrounding area slowly starts to deteriorate. Dental implants replace the tooth with a metal post, usually made of titanium. After a couple of months, a new bone grows around the artificial metal and holds it tight. After that, a dentist will test if your structure is secure enough, before fitting a crown on top of the implant and sealing it into place.
How Dental Implants Work
Dental implants fuse with your jawbone, providing a stable base for artificial teeth. Crowns mounted to implants won’t shift or slip in your mouth. This stability comes in handy when eating and speaking. The teeth also feel more natural than when using dentures or conventional bridges.
To qualify for an implant, you need healthy bones and gums to support the implant. You should also ensure that you keep the structure clean and healthy. Regular dental visits and meticulous oral hygiene are critical determinants of a successful and long-lasting dental implant.
How Dental Implants Look
In most cases, a dental implant offers the most appealing result, because your dentist can make them resemble a natural enamel. In some scenarios, dentists place the dental implant immediately after extracting your tooth, which conserves the natural level of your jawbone and makes the implant blend better with the rest of your teeth.
Types of Dental Implants
We have two common types of dental implants, namely:
Endosteal implant- This type involves directly implanting an artificial root into the jawbone during surgery. Once the gum tissue has is completely healed, a second surgery is done to connect the post to the implant. Lastly, the mounting of the artificial tooth takes place.
Subperiosteal implants- This type of dental implant involves fixing a metal frame into your jawbone, right below your gum tissue. As the gums heal, the frame remains fixed to your jawbone. After attaining the required strength, an artificial tooth is attached to the frame.
Pros of using dental implants
Dental implants have the following advantages:
Little maintenance- High-quality dental implants can last a lifetime, and they require very little maintenance.
Natural-looking- dental implants feel, look, and function like natural teeth. Their strength and stability allow you to smile with confidence.
Protects Your Jawbones- Having a wound or an open space in your jawbone puts it at risk for deterioration. Dental implants preserve and stimulate natural bone growth. This helps to prevent bone loss.
No Strain on Your Teeth- Unlike bridges, implants have their own support system. This enables implants to give the best results without straining adjacent teeth.
Cons of using dental implants
Surgery- This procedure involves implanting the teeth to your jawbone, thus the need for surgery. Surgical procedures come with all types of risks. These risks include nerve damage, infection, jaw fractures, damage to adjacent teeth, etc.
Time- Getting a tooth implant is not a one-time thing. The human bone heals slowly, which makes the entire procedure to take approximately three months.
Cost- The cost of dental implants varies depending on the condition of the tooth issued and the type of implant. Generally, implants are expensive, a factor that deters most people from getting implants
How Long Can a Dental Implant Last?
Dental implants last longer than bridges. In fact, if well taken care of, dental implants provide a lifetime of protection to its user. The titanium used to manufacture dental implants is durable and extremely resistant to decay and gum problems.
Caring for Dental Implants
The fact that implants can replace your teeth without affecting your other teeth’ position or performance makes maintaining them easier. To extend your dental implant’s lifespan, keep it clean and free of bacteria that might lead to infection around your implant. If you don’t clean your teeth regularly, a slimy, thin film of bacteria will build up in your mouth. This film can result in a damaging inflammatory process that might result in implant loss.
Your dental hygiene plays a key role in keeping your dental implants healthy and free of disease. You should consider visiting a dental hygienist occasionally and get your teeth thoroughly cleaned using special tools made of plastics and resins and plastics. While at home, you should also do the following:
Clean your teeth at least twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush.
Clean around and below your implant thoroughly when brushing your teeth.
Use a less abrasive toothpaste.
Use an oral irrigator to remove debris and food particles between your teeth.
Clean all the hard to reach places using a nylon-coated interdental brush.
Floss daily using un-waxed tape or implant-specific floss.
If you have a missing tooth, a dentist can bridge the gap in your smile using a dental bridge. A dental bridge is just a false tooth held in place by the adjacent teeth on the gap’s sides. Various materials are used to make dental bridges. These materials include gold, silver, cobalt, chromium, and even porcelain to make them blend in with other natural teeth.
How Dental Bridges Look
Most dental bridges are attractive and easily blend with the other teeth. In some cases, a dentist might advise you to get a porcelain bridge instead of a dental implant because it gives them the freedom to remove the small gaps between your teeth that may not be aesthetically attractive if you use an implant.
How Dental Bridges Work
Getting a traditional dental bridge involves the preparation of the teeth on either side of the dental gap. The damaged tooth is ground and trimmed to get rid of any decay. Next, the doctor will protect the ground tooth using a temporary tooth while preparing a well-fitting bridge. After a couple of days, the dentist will remove the temporary structure and attach the bridge using a strong adhesive. The bridge is anchored between the two teeth, filling the gap left by the damaged teeth.
Types of Dental Bridges
Below are the five main types of dental bridges
Traditional dental bridges– This is the most common type of bridge. Traditional dental bridges are made using porcelain or ceramics fused to metal. Traditional bridges are small, lightweight, and steady. They also provide good chewing comfort by re-distributing the bite force on your missing teeth.
Cantilever dental bridges– Cantilever bridges are not as common as traditional bridges, and they are not suitable for the back of your mouth where chewing takes place. Cantilever bridges are suitable when we have only one anchor tooth for support. Cantilever bridges work perfectly if the cantilevered tooth is in front.
Maryland Bonded Bridges– This is a winged dental bridge famous for its conservative nature. Maryland bridges are designed using plastic or ceramic teeth with a similar gum material. The teeth have metal attachments on opposing sides, which are fused to the adjacent anchor teeth. Maryland bonded bridges are suitable for front teeth.
Composite Bridge– For individuals who are looking for a fast and yet affordable dental bridge solution, composite bridges perfectly the bill. A dentist will fill the missing space using a composite bonding material in one visit.
Implant-Supported Bridges: This type of bridge is also becoming very common. Implant-supported bridges do not damage the adjoining teeth. The dental bridge gets support from implants. This feature makes the implant stable, and allows adequate spacing between your teeth and bridge, making it easier to clean.
Pros of Dental Bridges
The several advantages of using dental bridges include:
Simple procedure- Unlike installing dental implants, dental bridges do not require surgery, making them simple and less painful.
Faster- Getting a dental bridge is much easier and faster than getting an implant.
Affordable- Dental bridges are very affordable and still offer almost the same strength and support to your mouth.
Good appearance- Dental bridges used in the front teeth provide functional and attractive replacement teeth.
Dental health maintenance: With dental bridges, you have a lower risk of developing decay and other tooth-related problems around the bridge.
Ease of placement: Placing dental bridges need no anesthesia. This makes it the best procedure for treating young patients.
Cons of Dental Bridges
Dental implants also have some potential disadvantages:
Less Aesthetically Pleasing- Dental bridges do not have the natural look found in implants, making them less aesthetically pleasing.
Damage Natural Teeth- Before installing a dental bridge, adjacent teeth undergo lots of preparation. The process involves getting rid of a considerable amount of the tooth structure.
Periodic Replacement- Bridges need periodic replacements. Dentists recommend changing them every 5-7 years.
Limitations- One should meet certain requirements before getting dental bridges, including healthy surrounding tissues and gums.
How Long Can a Dental Bridge Last?
A dental bridge lasts for an average of 7 years if well-taken care of. Dental bridges have at least three crowns meant to fill the missing tooth gap. However, this design may cause challenges when flossing or brushing your teeth, thus needing extra oral hygiene instructions from your dentist.
Caring for Dental Bridges
Following these tips will help keep your bridge fresh and clean and prolong its lifespan. Dental bridge care tips include:
Brushing twice-daily using a toothpaste that contains silica, which helps to maintain high dental hygiene.
Floss below the false tooth at least once daily. Remember to do the same to your natural teeth.
Make regular visits to your dentist or dental hygienist to get your teeth professionally cleaned.
Eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables. Stay away from meat and other meals that may deteriorate your dental health.
Always as your dentist for the best ways to take care of your bridge, and do regular visits to get your bridge checked and cleaned. This will ensure that it lasts longer, thus saving on cost and inconveniences related to bridge replacements.
What should you choose?
When choosing whether to get a bridge or an implant, also consider the following factors
The Cost- Dental implants cost more than bridges. This among the main things that will determine the type of dental replacement you will get from your dentist.
Dental Coverage- Does your dental medical cover support both procedures? Most dental insurance providers cover bridges, while implants are rarely covered. If you do not have dental insurance, you can look for a dental insurance provider that provides discounted rates for both procedures.
Duration- How long will it take to have your teeth fixed? Bridges take a couple of visits to fix, while implants require surgeries and longer recovery times.
Lifespan- Dental implants have a long lifespan and less maintenance. On the other hand, bridges need replacement every 5-7 years.
So, which is the best? Dental Bridge vs. Implant?
What suits you best depends on your situation. This includes everything from your state of oral health, your access to affordable dental care, and basic finances. These aspects will determine whether you need a dental implant or bridge.
Your dentist will also provide you with the best solution that suits your current situation. He or she knows your dental health status and needs best. He or she will use the knowledge and tools to guide you through the best option for you and the reasons behind it. Some individuals prefer bridges because of their price and ease of installation, while others prefer dental implants because of their longevity and ease of maintenance.