Dental Implants vs. Bridges: Pros and Cons to Consider
Most adults have 32 teeth after all their permanent teeth have come in. And when properly cared for and barring unforeseen circumstances such as various medical conditions or dental trauma, those teeth should last for the rest of your lifetime.
But things do happen. In fact, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, adults between the ages of 20 to 64 years have an average of only 25.5 remaining teeth. Further, 2.2% of adults between the ages of 20 to 64 years have no remaining teeth. But you don’t have to live with a missing tooth. Various tooth replacement options can restore your smile and help you regain your confidence.
Implants vs. bridges — which tooth replacement option is right for you?
There are various reasons that adults experience tooth loss.
- Gum disease
- Cavities (tooth decay)
- Physical injury to the face or other dental trauma
- Presence of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, or arthritis
- Smoking or use of other tobacco products
- Poor nutrition or malnutrition
Whatever the reason you might be missing one or more of your adult teeth, there can be negative repercussions to leaving that gap in your mouth. Your remaining teeth may shift in your mouth, impacting your bite and ability to speak or chew your food effectively. Further, an improper bite can lead to headaches, additional tooth loss, tooth sensitivity in the remaining teeth, muscle pain, and TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder). As such, we advise that patients that have experienced tooth loss speak to their dentist about tooth replacement options.
The best options available today are dental implants and bridges. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of both options? How will you know which option is best for you? The answer is sometimes a personal choice but is best made collaboratively between you and your dentist. In the meantime, here is what you should know about implants vs. bridges.
Dental implants are a restorative dentistry procedure that replaces your missing tooth with what many consider a fake tooth. Dental implants are created from materials like titanium and zirconium that integrates with your bone to support a replacement crown, acting just like your natural tooth root. Many patients feel that implants are superior to bridges and dentures because they look and feel natural and function just like your natural tooth.
Advantages of Dental Implants
- Dental implants can last forever if proper oral care is maintained.
- Implants look and feel just like your natural teeth – no one will know you have an implant but you and your dentist.
- You can replace one missing tooth or several missing teeth – there is no need for bridges or dentures to hold the crown in.
Disadvantages of Dental Implants
- The dental restoration that sits on top of your implant can wear out over time, requiring replacement.
- You’ll need enough remaining bone to hold the implants securely in place.
- The process requires several appointments over an extended period – roughly six months.
A dental bridge is custom-made to fill the space where one or more of your teeth are missing. A fixed dental bridge leverages an existing natural tooth or teeth to hold your bridge in place. Your dentist will use a special kind of cement to fix your bridge into place. A dentist can only later remove it, making bridges relatively stable and very similar to your natural teeth.
Advantages of Dental Bridges
- Dental bridges do not require surgery and are therefore a less-invasive restorative dental treatment than implants.
- A dental bridge is more secure than dentures that can slip and shift in the mouth.
- Dental bridges look and feel more like natural teeth than dentures.
Disadvantages of Dental Bridges
- A bridge will require a modification to the teeth that will be used to hold it in place – a small amount of enamel from the healthy adjacent teeth will be removed so that the dental crown can fit properly.
- Bridges do not address or replace bone loss – replacing your tooth root with a dental implant is the only way to stop bone resorption.
- Bridges have a lifespan of about 15 years and will then need to be replaced.
Dental implants and bridges are not your only options, however, and interim solutions are available if you are not ready. Space maintainers can help keep your teeth from shifting. Or you can try dentures, or perhaps get a bridge first until you are prepared to get a dental implant. The best option for your situation is often best made by you and your dentist.
Have more questions about dental implants vs. bridges? The team at Parmer Lane Dentistry can help.
If you have missing teeth, now is the time to talk to your family dentistry team in Austin, TX, about tooth replacement options. Request an appointment so that we can get to know you and your smile goals. Before you know it, you’ll be on the path to an improved smile. We’re here to help you and your whole family smile for life.