February 25, 2022
Tooth loss is an extremely common problem. Studies show that 65 percent of adults lose at least one adult tooth before 35 to 44 years of age and about 25% of adults lose all their teeth by the age of 75.
A significant effect is caused on the appearance of one’s smile by tooth loss in addition to functionality issues, putting a serious dent in self-confidence.
It is important to get a proper replacement after tooth loss to keep the rest of your teeth aligned and help maintain the facial shape and avoid difficulties with eating or speaking.
The most common options for tooth replacement are dental bridges and implants.
Though both approaches address the same challenges, at a technical level, they are very different options to consider.
If one is looking for the right solution for missing teeth, it becomes imperative to understand the available treatment options and an understanding of what each entails before deciding on the method suitable for one’s specific needs.
Semi-permanent replacements for a missing tooth or teeth, a dental bridge attaches to the remaining healthy teeth surrounding a gap to build a bridge across the area in the person’s smile.
They are custom-made out of porcelain, ceramic, or plastic to match the natural colour of the teeth.
Dental Bridge Procedure
The Dental bridges procedure usually requires two appointments and involves:
- Preparing the abutment teeth by filing down the abutment teeth to make room for the new crowns.
- Taking an impression of teeth and sending it to the lab to create the bridge. A temporary bridge is placed till the bridge is ready.
Once the bridge is ready, the patient is called for a second appointment to:
- Remove the temporary bridge and clean the teeth.
- Place the new bridge and take x-rays to make sure it fits well.
- Finally bonding the bridge and teeth using special dental cement.
Aftercare of Dental Bridges includes:
- Frequent rinsing with mouthwash and brushing at least twice a day
- Flossing the teeth regularly with a special tool such as a water flosser, super floss, or floss threaders to make sure that the bridge is clean.
Types of Dental Bridge
There may not always be teeth on both sides of a gap in some instances. One may need an alternative style of bridge, in these cases where there are no strong teeth to support bridge such as:
The Bridge is attached to a single tooth on one side and helps to replace a missing tooth in the anterior region when there is only one adjacent supporting tooth.
Made of a fake tooth supported by metal frames attached to the teeth on either side of the missing tooth, Maryland bridges are used in the part of the mouth that cannot handle much force or where only one tooth is missing.
Set on dental implants, these are usually useful for patients who have at least three missing molars in a row.
Advantages of Dental Bridge
- Quick procedure
- Usually covered by insurance
- Do not require bone grafting or invasive surgery
- Usually, only two visits to the dentist spread over a couple of weeks needed
- One of the most cost-effective methods for replacing missing teeth.
- Faster recovery time
Disadvantages of Dental Bridge
- They usually need to be replaced about every 5 to 7 years
- Their natural-looking appearance is lost with age
- The surrounding teeth get more prone to cavities and tooth decay.
- Healthy teeth around the missing tooth can be damaged
- Long-term issues arising from bone loss due to the removal of teeth continue to advance even after the gap is addressed.
When the underlying structure of a tooth which includes bone, ligaments, and nerves is removed, the neighboring area slowly begins to erode.
This structure is replaced with a metal post, usually made of titanium, called dental implants.
A permanent tooth replacement option, dental implants are made of three or four parts, including:
- The implant is usually made of titanium, which is surgically placed and fuses with the jawbone.
- The middle section is called an abutment that connects the implant to the crown or bridge
- Screws are used to connect the abutment to the implant or crown.
- A crown or bridge that is attached to the top of the implant to replicate the look & function of a natural tooth.
Dental Implant Procedure
In an outpatient procedure, patients can return home at the end of the Dental Implant surgery. However, the complete process can sometimes take a few months.
The treatment length and steps can vary from person to person but the general procedure for most implants requires:
- Removal of the damaged tooth if it is still in the mouth.
- Performing a bone graft if the jawbone is too thin, to help increase the bone strength.
The implant surgery involves:
- Cutting open the gums, exposing the bone.
- Drilling a hole in each place where an implant is needed.
- Placing the implant screw deep in the bone.
Healing and growth is a significant next step of the procedure. The implant will begin to fuse with the surrounding bone as the incision begins to heal.
This process called osseointegration can take several months till the base is strong enough to support a crown.
The abutment is placed after the wound has helped to connect the implant to the crown.
Impressions are then taken and sent to the lab to create the crowns. The final step is placing the crown which is the only visible portion of the implant, on top of the abutment.
Aftercare of Implant includes:
- Antibiotics to prevent infection and promote healing
- Consuming soft foods during the healing process
- Brushing and flossing twice a day
- Practicing optimal oral health care
- Abstaining from alcohol, caffeine & tobacco
Types of Implants
There are various types of dental implant techniques for different conditions.
- Single Tooth implants help to replace a single missing tooth, requiring just one implant screw and a crown placed between the natural teeth.
- Implant-Supported Bridges are used to replace multiple teeth wherein the implants support a bridge that replaces the missing teeth.
- Implant-Retained Dentures are a replacement option for the full arch, providing more stability and less pressure on the gums than traditional dentures.
- 3-on-6 Dental Implants are an alternative to implant-supported dentures with three bridges that are set on top of six dental implants.
- All-on-4 Dental Implants that provide a more permanent, natural-looking alternative to dentures, replacing the entire upper or lower arch or both.
Pros of Dental Implants
- A more permanent solution as the crown may last 15 years
- More natural-looking
- Less damage to surrounding healthy teeth and jaw
Cons of Dental Implants
- More expensive option than bridges
- Mostly not covered by insurance
- Longer healing process
- Surgical complications though rare can be serious
Which Cost More Implant or Bridge?
Dental bridges are generally cheaper options than implants. The cost of dental implants depends on the type of procedure, number of teeth needing replacement and bone condition.
The bone grafts, the dental abutment, and the dental crown can incur extra costs.
Making The Right Choice
Though choosing between a dental bridge or implant seems like a difficult decision, the dentist can give you the best advice.
The best option for you will depend on various factors such as:
- Number of teeth missing
- The condition of the jawbone
- The general overall health of the patient
- Patient’s budget.
- Availability of time
Dr. Gaurav Sharma at Kirkland Premier Dentistry says that if a person is missing multiple teeth in a row, a bridge may make more sense as with multiple missing teeth, multiple implants may need to be surgically placed.
However, if a person has good overall health, implants can be a more permanent & successful option with long-term success.
A dental bridge can be placed in two visits if one is in a hurry whereas the implant procedure can take up to six months so the time is of important consideration too.
To know more about your options and further clarity on how to choose between the two most popular tooth replacement options available, book an online appointment with Dr. Gaurav Sharma at Kirkland premier dentistry who has more than 400 hours of continuing education credits for dental implant training, so you can be sure of being in safe hands