Bridge vs Implant: Which is Better? Everything You Need To Know

bridge vs implant

Two of the most common solutions for missing teeth are dental implants and dental bridges. Losing teeth can have a major impact on functionality, your smile, and self-confidence. Both treatments address the same issue, at a technical level a bridge vs implant is very different.

When deciding on a dental bridge vs implant surgery for replacing missing teeth, there are quite a few aspects to consider before making a decision. For example, if you have had a missing tooth for a long period of time bone grafting will be required in order to successfully complete dental implant surgery, but is not necessary for bonded or crowned bridges.

When comparing a bridge vs implant, keep in mind that they both have their own eligibility requirements. For example, a dental implant is not for youth patients, since the bones keep growing until maturity.  If you have periodontal disease, tooth decay or have chips or cracks, you may need to undergo additional treatments before the teeth are strong enough to support a dental bridge. Both options are typically a major investment that patients must be willing to make to restore health, beauty, and function.  Not replacing teeth with stable restorations can result in teeth shifting causing negative effects on other teeth, not to mention the benefits to chewing efficiency and appearance.

WHAT ARE DENTAL BRIDGES AND IMPLANTS?


dentist on operation
Dental implant surgery replaces tooth roots with metal posts and replaces damaged or missing teeth with artificial teeth that look and function like real ones. It usually is a series of procedures to recreate the missing tooth. Implant surgery is an alternative to dentures or bridgework.

There are several types of dental implant surgeries. How it is performed depends on the type of implant of the condition of the jaw. The key element of a dental implant is the titanium that rests in the open bone pocket. Then the implant is capped with a dental crown. In some cases, an implant and a bridge can be combined, especially to replace missing molars, also known as an implant-supported bridge.

DENTAL IMPLANT SURGERY


False Teeth

During the initial consultation, the dentist will discuss treatment options and a plan for surgery. Typically performed as an outpatient surgery, a dental implant requires multiple visits. During surgery, Local anesthesia or IV sedation can be used to keep the patient comfortable and depending on the procedure.

Once the damaged tooth is removed, the jawbone is prepared for surgery (may involve bone grafting). After the jaw heals, the surgeon will implant the titanium post in the jawbone and then let the jaw heal for a few months. The extension of the implant post (abutment) is attached to the implant. This could be done immediately after inserting the implant, if it's stable enough. Once all the soft tissue heals, the dentist will make molds of the teeth and jawbone. Then during the final visit, the final replacement tooth is cemented in place.

After the surgery, recovery is similar to any other dental surgery. It may include swelling, bruising, minor bleeding and/or pain, but most patients usually manage any pain with over-the-counter medications.

DENTAL BRIDGE VS IMPLANT SURGERY


woman's mouth

A bridge is a dental prosthetic that rest above the gums and teeth to act in place of the missing teeth. The adjacent teeth are ground down to provide a comfortable setting for the prosthetic. Once cemented in, patients must keep it free of plaque buildup to prevent further damage to that area of the jaw. Unfortunately, since this is a topical treatment, the dentist will be less likely to detect degenerative conditions in the jaw that could have contributed to the loss of the missing teeth. In parts of the mouth that can handle less force or where only one tooth is missing, dentists now often use a winged, or Maryland bridge that’s embedded into the neighboring teeth, rather than one that fully caps them.

Product Specs

Dental implants require a certain amount of good quality bone. Bone graft surgery may be required if the bone isn't strong enough to hold an implant.

When Bone Grafting Is Required

Bone grafting is when a piece of bone is removed from another part of the jaw or body and transplanted to the jaw. Artificial bone is also available to replace deteriorated jaw bone. It can take several months for the transplanted bone to develop enough new bone to support a dental implant.

If bone grafting is required, whether you are a candidate or not for bone grafting may be the determining factor between a dental bridge vs implant surgery.

Pricing

The cost of the individual treatment will depend on the quality, amount, and location of bone, the number of missing teeth, the type of implant needed, and a number of implants needed.

Dental offices base their prices on supply cost, laboratory cost, regional averages, and treatment difficulty. Unless bone grafting surgery is necessary, there is no excuse for a dental implant to cost $5,000, but there are dental offices that charge that much.

Generally, dental implants are not covered by dental insurance, but in many cases, the insurance will cover the price of the artificial tooth that is placed on the metal implant.

How it Compares

We picked a few similar products available on the market to see how they compare.

  • Dental Implants
  • Traditional Bridge
  • Maryland Bonded Bridges

DENTAL IMPLANTS


tooth implant

Price

The cost of a dental implant can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $7,500 per implant.

EASE OF PROCEDURE

Dental implants require multiple visits over the span of three to six months, not including any additional bone grafting surgery.

DURABILITY

If properly cared for, it can last over 40 years. Replacement teeth can be brushed and flossed just like natural teeth.

QUALITY OF THE LOOK

Best aesthetics possible and easy to clean. No special floss or brush required.

HOW IT AFFECTS  OTHER TEETH

An implant resembles a natural root by stimulating and preserving the gums and bone with the forces of chewing. Other teeth are not affected because implants rely on their own anchor instead of the adjacent teeth.

PROS

  • Doesn't affect adjacent teeth
  • Resembles natural root system, preventing gum and bone decay
  • Can last over 40 years, if properly cared for.

C​ONS

  • Requires minor surgery and recovery time before permanent tooth replacement
  • More expensive
  • Rarely covered by dental insurance

Traditional Bridge


Traditional bridge for teeth

The false tooth is held in place by the crowns of the adjacent teeth. In some ways, it is less invasive and more invasive in other ways. Dental bridges don't invade the gums and bones like implants do, but they do invade the adjacent teeth. They are ground down to the point where a crown can be placed on top, and the teeth still look natural, with the crowns holding the fake tooth in place.

A special type of floss and toothbrush are required to properly maintain the artificial tooth and bridge.

Price

A dental bridge can cost in the range of $700 to $1,500 (per unit), not including any additional treatments or therapies. For a three-unit bridge (one false tooth and two anchors crowns).

EASE OF PROCEDURE

The procedure requires two to three visits over a few weeks.

DURABILITY

A dental bridge will probably last anywhere between ten to twenty years before needing replacement.

QUALITY OF THE LOOK

Modern bridges look natural, but the underlying gums and bone can deteriorate over time. The artificial tooth and crowns are made to look like teeth.

HOW IT AFFECTS OTHER TEETH

The natural teeth that are either side of the gap need to be filed down for the prosthetics to look natural. This makes those teeth affected more susceptible to plaque accumulation, decay, periodontal disease, and the possible need for future root canals.

PROS

  • Requires less time and money than dental implants
  • More likely covered by dental insurance plans
  • If damaged, it is easier to replace than an implant

C​ONS

  • Bridges don't look as natural as implants
  • More likely to develop tooth decay and gum disease
  • If adjacent teeth have crowns, they must be removed

MARYLAND BONDED BRIDGES


Teeth Bridges

Also known as resin-bonded, a Maryland bridge is similar to a traditional bridge, but it is more aesthetically pleasing. A Maryland bridge is a pontic (fake) tooth fused to a metal framework that is to be bonded to the back of the teeth on either side of the gap.

Price

Each wing can cost from $250 to $550, and the replacement tooth can cost about $600 to $1,200. A typical one replacement tooth with two wings ranges from $1,100 to $2,300.

EASE OF PROCEDURE

Once the adjacent teeth are prepared, the dentist takes a mold of the teeth needing the bridge. While the mold gets sent to the laboratory to make a permanent bridge, the dentist will provide a temporary bridge. During the second visit, the permanent is cemented in place.

Most people need an additional visit to ensure tthe bridge fits comfortably and correctly.

DURABILITY

Dental bridges can last five to fifteen years. With proper care, it is not unusual for bridges to last over 10 years.

It also restores the ability to properly chew by distributing the force of the bite properly by replacing missing teeth.

QUALITY OF THE LOOK

Since the artificial teeth are bonded to the back of the adjacent teeth, it is more aesthetically pleasing than a traditional bridge.

HOW IT AFFECTS OTHER TEETH

Usually, acid etching is used to prepare the adjacent teeth for bonding by removing some enamel. Like the traditional bridge, this wears down the teeth slightly. Due to its structure, the forces from chewing are distributed to the anchoring teeth. This can cause damage to the natural teeth, if not properly maintained.

PROS

  • Minimal amount of attachment and limited capacity to absorb force.
  • Prevents remaining teeth from drifting out of position
  • If the bridge fails, it is quick and painless to replace.

C​ONS

  • If not properly maintained, may lead to the loss of additional teeth.
  • Adjacent teeth take on the force that the missing tooth would take.
  • Adjacent teeth get worn down to attach the bridge.

Conclus​​​​ion

toothbrush cartoon

Due to the vast difference is cost, most dental insurance companies are more likely to pay for a prosthetic bridge vs implant surgery. However, patients with dental plans can receive some assistance, but it usually requires some personal investment. Dental implants are also more restricted for eligibility. Most times, the cost is the determining factor for the patient, as well as the time it takes to complete treatment. An implant can take three to six month to complete surgery and fully heal; however, a dental bridge can take as little as two to three weeks. The decision between a dental bridge vs implant surgery varies patient to patient. While some may prefer an implant, without a bone graft it may not be an option. However, if the patient has wide sections of teeth missing, implants may be required to fix a bridge across the gap.

The single tooth implant is the simplest use for dental implants. For multiple, consecutive missing teeth, implants can be combined with a bridge. The bridge allows fewer implants needed to replace the missing teeth. Implants can also support under-girding bars for very stable and attractive removable dentures that keep bone from being lost.

Areas of slight risk that should be discussed with the dentist include if a dental bridge will weaken surrounding teeth, whether jawbone degeneration is an issue, and any recovery time needed or post-procedure sensitivity that may be experienced. Another important factor when considering a bridge vs implant is to ensure the stability and longevity of the dental bridge, is proper care and wellness to ensure overall health.

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