For patients who are missing one or more teeth, there are a variety of different replacement options available.
The two most common fixed options are dental bridges. Partial dentures might be the most common but they are removable.
Both of these tooth replacement options provide patients with a fixed, long-term solution that allows them to go back to living their everyday lives — and improving their confidence through a beautiful smile.
But navigating the differences between the two options can be confusing for anyone.
To help make that process easier, we’ve pulled together a list of everything you need to know about dental bridges and implants to help you compare the two and make the most informed decision for your needs.
A dental bridge is a custom-made replacement tooth, or teeth, that fill the space where teeth are missing. They are made of artificial teeth held in place by the surrounding teeth.
Dental bridges can help to restore the natural look and function of your teeth to make everyday activities like chewing, speaking, and smiling easier.
Beyond these everyday activities, bridges also provide your jawbone with the support it needs by holding teeth steadily in position. If you don’t replace the missing teeth, it will eventually result in shifting the position of your teeth and can cause additional damage.
A dental bridge will have two main parts to it:
Bridges are created to mimic your natural teeth and will not be noticeably different from your existing teeth, although they will lose some of their natural appearance over time.
There are a number of benefits to choosing a bridge as your tooth-replacement option. Some of the common benefits that come with dental bridges include:
When considering a dental bridge, a few different options are available to you. The four main types of dental bridges include traditional fixed bridges, cantilever bridges, Maryland-bonded bridges, and implant-supported bridges.
Dental implants are a great long-term solution to replace a missing tooth or teeth, and they are replacements that become a fixed part of your mouth that look and act just like your natural teeth.
A dental implant replaces the entire tooth, all the way down to the roots. They are surgically placed directly into your jawbone and fuse with the bone over time, making them more durable and natural.
Dental implants also consist of two main parts:
Many people choose to have dental implants placed because they are a long-lasting solution that provides a number of benefits. Some of those benefits that dental implants provide as opposed to having no tooth replacement at all include:
Similar to a dental bridge, implants will allow you to maintain all of your daily activities like eating and talking without a problem. Implants provide you with a well-matched replacement that will hold its natural-looking appearance over time.
The process for placing a dental bridge and implant is very different.
A dental bridge uses the teeth surrounding the missing tooth to support the replacement tooth. On the other hand, an implant is surgically placed into the jawbone directly where the missing tooth was.
To help you better understand the procedure for each of these, let’s quickly look at the process for both.
The procedure for a dental bridge will most likely require two appointments with your dentist.
During the first appointment, your dentist will prepare the abutment teeth. To prepare the abutment teeth, your dentist will remove part of the enamel and prepare the area for the crown that will eventually sit on top of them.
He or she will then take an impression of your teeth and will then send that impression to a laboratory to create the permanent bridge, but you will have a temporary one placed in the meantime.
The second appointment will happen once your dentist receives the permanent bridge back. During this visit, your dentist will remove the temporary and place the permanent bridge. He or she will then make any necessary adjustments to ensure the bridge fits comfortably.
Once it has been confirmed that the fit of your bridge is comfortable and suits your needs, your dentist will then permanently cement it into place.
The bridge procedure is relatively straightforward and doesn’t require months of healing between dental visits.
The procedure for dental implants is a little more complex and will require you to visit your dentist more often, over a more extended period of time.
One of the first appointments that will be required for the dental implant procedure is an initial evaluation. During this appointment, your dentist will review the condition of your mouth and jawbone to determine whether you are a good candidate for dental implants.
You’ll likely have X-rays and impressions taken in preparation for future appointments.
It’s also important to discuss any other medical conditions you may have with your dentist during this appointment. Certain conditions could impact the success of a dental implant.
At the end of your first appointment, you should have a plan of action and the next steps for your implant procedure.
After the initial appointment, if you still have a tooth that needs to be extracted before the implant is placed, that will be the next step. In some cases, you can have the implant placed during the same appointment as the extraction, but your dentist will advise you on whether this is the case for your situation or not.
In some cases, you may need a bone graft as part of your procedure. If this is the case, it is extremely common to extract the tooth and place the implant and graft at the same time.
The next step is to place the implant into your jawbone. It will take time for your jawbone to grow around the implant and stabilize it. This means you’ll again have a waiting period before the final step.
Once the implant is stable and has become part of your jawbone, your dentist will complete the implant by adding the abutment and the permanent crown.
Your general dentist will most likely be the dental provider you will see if you need a dental bridge. While they may send the impressions to a laboratory to create the bridge, they will handle the preparation and placement.
Many general dentists will also handle dental implant cases, but some may refer you out to an oral surgeon. Since implants are considered dental surgery, some general dentists prefer to refer these cases out.
No matter where you decide to have your dental work completed, it’s essential to find an experienced, qualified provider to provide you with the services you need.
The cost of your tooth replacement option may vary based on a number of factors, such as how many teeth need to be replaced, where you live, the type and material you select, and what your insurance may or may not cover.
These are the general price ranges you can expect to see for bridges and implants:
*General industry pricing only. See your local Aspen Dental for specific pricing.
Bridges are often a cheaper solution upfront, and implants are priced per tooth, which can quickly add up if you require more than one tooth replacement. So if you’re looking for a cheaper option up front, a bridge might be the way to go.
If you have the ability to spend a little more upfront and want something that will have a longer lifespan, then implants may be a good option for your needs.
Everyone has a unique situation, and there is an option available no matter your needs. Speaking with your dental provider about what your budgetary restrictions are and how each option fits your needs.
When looking at tooth replacement options, understanding the lifespan of each is important. Taking into consideration the lifespan of each option will help you understand the long-term benefits.
Dental bridges have a shorter lifespan than implants, but they can still last up to 10 years or more with the proper care.
On the other hand, dental implants can last around 25 years when properly cared for. They are a longer-term solution that is more permanently fixed into your mouth.
If you’re looking for a solution that will last longer, then implants may be the right option for your needs.
It’s important to note that it will shorten its lifespan if you do not take proper care of your replacement tooth, whether it’s a bridge or implant.
When it comes to caring for your tooth replacement, the process is fairly similar between the two options.
The most important thing you need to do, no matter what option you choose, is to practice good oral hygiene. To keep your natural teeth and dental bridge or implant in the best possible shape, you’ll want to follow a multiple-step process each day.
Regularly brushing your teeth is very important. If you neglect to brush your teeth on a regular basis, you’re leaving your mouth susceptible to plaque and bacteria build-up that can cause cavities or infection.
You should be brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time.
If you have a dental bridge, you’ll want to spend a little extra time brushing around it to ensure no food particles have gotten stuck between the bridge and your gums.
Flossing is another step to keeping your mouth in the best shape possible. In addition to brushing, flossing helps you to clean the space between your teeth that your toothbrush can’t reach.
You’ll want to be flossing once a day.
The flossing process is the same no matter what type of tooth replacement you have and won’t require any special steps.
Last but not least is keeping up with your regular dental check-ups.
Making time to visit your dental provider every six months is one of the most important things you can do for your oral health. During this visit, your dentist will examine your mouth for any potential concerns and perform a deep cleaning — leaving you with squeaky clean teeth.
Regular dental check-ups will allow your provider to identify potential problems and ensure your bridge or implant is working and fitting appropriately.
Both dental bridges and implants will allow you to chew and eat as you did with your natural teeth. In fact, if you’ve been missing teeth, they will likely make it easier to eat than it is currently.
There are a few foods that you may want to eat in limitation because they could potentially cause damage to the replacement teeth, such as:
While these things are on the list to limit, you can still enjoy your favorite snacks or have a steak dinner. Just keep in mind that these foods could potentially cause damage to your replacement teeth.
Dental bridges and implants are two similar tooth replacement options, and comparing the two can sometimes be challenging. For many people, one of the best ways to determine what the best option is for them is to make a list of pros and cons.
To help make that easier, let’s take a look at the pros and cons for both bridges and implants.
Let’s start with dental bridges. There are a number of benefits that come with this option, but there are also some disadvantages to take into consideration. For example, while they may have a lower upfront cost, you’ll likely need to have them replaced within 5 to 7 years.
The pros of dental bridges:
The cons of dental bridges:
Next up, let’s look at the pros and cons of implants. Many know that one pro that comes with implants is that they are longer-lasting, but it’s also a much longer process to have them placed — all things you’ll want to take into consideration.
The pros of dental implants:
The cons of dental implants:
Hopefully, this list of pros and cons helps put the main differences between these two replacement options into perspective. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, it just depends on what you’re looking to achieve.
When speaking with your dental provider, make sure to be open and honest about what you’re looking for out of the process.
Things like having a set budget or time constraints that may make it hard for you to visit their office for multiple appointments. These insights will help them weigh the pros and cons to recommend the best option for your needs.
Depending on your situation, there may be some scenarios where you are not a candidate for a bridge or implant.
While dental bridges are a great option for most people, if you are missing multiple teeth in one area of the mouth, there may not be adequate teeth to anchor to. Since the bridge relies on the teeth around it for support, it simply would not work.
Another scenario when a bridge isn’t always recommended is when the surrounding teeth are healthy, and the patient is actively practicing a good oral hygiene routine. For these cases, an implant may be a better option to preserve the health of the surrounding teeth.
For dental implants, the most common reason people are not qualified is due to the quality of the jawbone. If the bone can’t support the implant, then your dentist may recommend another replacement option or offer additional treatments.
To know whether you’re a good candidate for a dental bridge or implant, you’ll want to speak with your dental provider about the health of your mouth.
There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to choosing the right tooth replacement for your needs. Both dental bridges and implants are great options for anyone who is looking for a more permanent solution that mimics their natural teeth.
Determining which one is best for you will depend on everything from look, feel, price, and longevity. The best way to know you’re choosing the right option for your case is to speak with your dental provider about your wants and expectations.
Your new patient visit at Aspen Dental is our most important appointment together.