Tooth loss is common among adults, with one study finding that an estimated 69% of adults 35 to 44 have lost at least one tooth. Cosmetic dentistry has made it possible to restore your smile if you have one or more missing teeth.
Because of advancements in dental technology, more individuals are opting for the two most common options—dental bridges or dental implants. Several factors, including longevity and affordability, influence the decision on which one to get.
Read on to learn about the pros and cons of each procedure as you weigh your options.
What Is a Dental Bridge?
Dental bridges are false teeth, also called a pontic, used to "bridge" the gap left by one or more missing teeth. Bridges are made from durable materials such as porcelain or porcelain fused to metal and are customized to match the natural color of your teeth.
The prosthetic teeth are held in place by an abutment attached to the adjacent teeth. In the case of a traditional dental bridge, the abutments are customized crowns placed over the teeth on either side of the gap. A metal framework is used to support the Maryland bridge, while only one abutment crown is needed for the cantilever bridge.
Dental Bridge Advantages and Disadvantages
This teeth replacement option has been a traditional smiles restoration method long before dental implants were introduced. However, there are pros and cons to consider.
- Getting bridges is less invasive than implants and does not require bone grafting
- Usually cost less than dental implants
- Are usually partially or fully covered by dental insurance
- The process is easier and the timeframe for completion is shorter (about 2-8 weeks if tooth removal isn't required)
- The prosthetic teeth are permanently fixed in place (not removable like traditional dentures)
- Dental bridges can last five to 15 years or longer with good oral hygiene
- Requires filing down the adjacent natural teeth which damage and weakens them
- Durable but not as strong as implants to withstand pressure from biting
- Need replacing approximately every 5 to 10 years
- Greater risk of decay of surrounding teeth due to weakened teeth
- Bone loss continues because there's no replacement tooth root as with dental implants
What Is a Dental Implant?
Dental implants are currently the most effective solution for replacing missing teeth. An implant is an artificial tooth root made from metal, usually titanium. The tooth root is surgically embedded inside the gum above the jawbone. Your cosmetic dentist may cover the implant with a customized replacement crown. The procedure is known as single tooth dental implants.
In other cases, implants can be used as support for a dental bridge (implant-supported bridges). An implant-supported bridge provides more stability compared to a traditional bridge. It is also more affordable than replacing multiple missing teeth using the single-tooth dental implant method. Even if you wanted to opt for dentures, a more modern and durable treatment called implant-supported dentures is now available.
Dental Implant Advantages and Disadvantages
The use of an artificial tooth root and porcelain crown comes the closest to mimicking your natural tooth. While this is one of the most outstanding benefits, dental implants still have many more advantages as well as disadvantages.
- Unlike bridges, implants look, feel, and function like your natural teeth
- The procedure does not require filing down surrounding teeth
- Greater strength and durability and provide a stronger bite
- Implants can last a lifetime with proper oral care
- Prevent teeth from shifting and creating gaps between the teeth
- Improve facial symmetry
- Promote bone growth around the implant
- Can also be used to anchor dentures and bridges
- Have a high 10-year success rate of over 97%
- Require healthy gums
- Involves an invasive surgical procedure
- Dental implants cost more than bridges
- Not usually covered by insurance
- Involves a lengthy process that can take anywhere from 6 to 12 months
- Bone grafting may be required to increase jawbone height
- Require a higher upfront cost than bridges
Effects of Missing Teeth
Adults can lose one or more teeth due to untreated cavities, infections, gum disease, tooth injury, or mouth trauma. You may be tempted to forego restorative treatment by a cosmetic dentist because of cost or other reasons. However, having missing teeth for a prolonged period can change the integrity of your facial structure.
Your teeth will begin shifting in an attempt to close the gaps. The movement results in misalignment of your teeth, larger teeth gaps, improper bite (malocclusion), speech problems, and loss of facial symmetry. Correcting an improper bite with dental braces requires a lengthy and expensive process. Besides, your remaining teeth can get weaker from having to compensate for a missing tooth.
Tooth loss also causes psychological effects such as lowered self-confidence. You can avoid all of these potential problems by getting bridges or implants as early as possible.
Dental Bridge vs. Dental Implant Which Is Right for You?
Tired of hiding your mouth when you speak or smile? Fortunately, you have a choice between dental bridges or implants to restore your smile. Now that you're equipped with details on the pros and cons, you're ready to make a more informed decision on which treatment is more effective and aesthetically pleasing.
Note that although implants cost more, you can end up paying more for bridges in the long run. That's because bridges require periodical maintenance work to keep them going. Even if affordability is a concern, there's still the option of getting an implant-supported bridge. It can outlast a regular dental bridge since an artificial tooth root is used to anchor the pontic.
Contact our cosmetic dentist at Whitlock Dentistry
We want to help put back the confidence in your smile. Dr. Whitlock can perform a comprehensive exam and provide information to help you decide if a dental bridge or dental implant is right for you. Call (812) 332-0005 to schedule an appointment or request one using the online form.