The simple definition of dental implants and dental bridges are similar, but they have different purposes. You and your dentist will discuss which one suits your situation best.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant, an artificial tooth root, will bring you as close as possible to having your original tooth. People typically need a dental implant to replace a missing tooth caused by non-restorable decay (cavity), severe gum disease, a failed root canal, natural causes of aging, or accidental severe tooth damage.
A dental implant is placed in the same bone that housed your original tooth. Dr. LaViola uses the best technology available for her procedures including digital x-rays, 3D mapping, models, photographs, and case guides.
A dental implant gives you stability and confidence, leaving you feeling like it’s your natural tooth.
The pros and cons of dental implants
- Pro: Dental implants are durable and long-lasting
Compared to other options like dental bridges, implants are more durable. Dental implants are fused into your jawbone which ensures the function of natural teeth. If you take proper care of your implants, they will continue to function as a normal set of teeth.
- Pro: You’ll have natural-looking teeth
Dental implants give you the function of natural teeth along with the look of natural teeth. No one will even tell that you have implants.
- Pro: Dental implants are not detrimental to oral hygiene
Dental implants will not harm the surrounding teeth, and you have a lower chance of getting cavities. As long as you maintain proper dental hygiene, you will keep your chances of further dental problems low.
- Con: Dental implants are a long process
One drawback to dental implants is the process to getting your function and look of natural teeth back is longer. With a dental bridge, it takes one to two weeks, but with an implant, it takes 12 to 16 weeks.
- Con: Dental implants are expensive
When it comes to dental work, the first concern people typically have is the cost of repairing the damage. Dental implants can cost $3,000 per lost tooth; however, the implants are much less likely to need to be replaced like a dental bridge does.
- Con: Surgery is necessary
Due to the implants needing to be placed into your jawbone, it does require a surgery; however, it is a simple 30-minute procedure. As with any surgery, you still have a risk of infection, damage to adjacent teeth and post-operative discomfort.
What is a dental bridge?
A dental bridge is also a permanent restoration to replace one or more missing teeth. They mimic the look and function of natural teeth. In more serious incidents, a patient may need a full mouth rehabilitation if they need multiple bridges or have a whole row of teeth missing.
A dental bridge is an artificial tooth that is secured in your mouth by your natural teeth.
The big difference between the two is that the dental bridge hides the gaps between missing teeth with artificial teeth while dental implants are placed directly into the bone.
The dental bridge is made from porcelain or plastic, and the attached crowns are made to match your exact tooth color, so they won’t stand out.
The three main types of dental bridges are:
- Traditional fixed bridges (the most common and supported by crowns)
- Cantilever bridges (only one side is supported by crowns)
- Maryland bonded bridges (porcelain is fused to metal to create “wings”)
The type of bridge you need will depend on how many teeth you have lost, so you and your dentist will discuss which one will suit your situation.
You may need bridges over dental implants if you already have dental crowns on the supporting teeth.
Pros and cons of dental bridges
- Pro: Insurance typically helps cover a dental bridge
Typically, dental insurance will cover some portion of the cost of dental bridges. This can make dental bridges an affordable plan for patients.
- Pro: No surgery is needed
Choosing to have a dental bridge instead of a dental implant means the patient will not need surgery. The patient will just need to visit their dentist a couple of times over the course of a few weeks to get their bridge fitted and installed.
- Con: Bridges need to be replaced
One disadvantage to choosing a dental bridge is their lifespan is limited. The bridge averages 12 years before needing to be replaced. If either of the teeth holding your bridge becomes severely damaged, another bridge may not be an option.
- Con: Dental hygiene is more challenging
If you have a bridge installed, you will need to be diligent about flossing, regular cleaning visits, and brushing. Due to the bridge being connected to your other teeth, it creates an increased risk of cavities and tooth decay.