Many people are faced with this question at one time or another. They have lost a permanent tooth due to it being non-restorable, or they were born without it, and need to replace it. Patients look to us for guidance about how to replace the missing tooth. Several criteria have to be considered when deciding which method of fixed tooth replacement is best for the individual.
It used to be that the best choice was a fixed bridge restoration. With this device, the teeth on either side of the space are prepared for a cap or crown. Then the laboratory fabricates a restoration that “bridges” space where the tooth used to be with an artificial tooth called a pontic. The pontic is attached to the individual crowns on either side, connecting them together as one unit. This restoration is then cemented to the prepared teeth so that you may use it to chew. It is as if the tooth was never lost. It is fully functional and makes one look better as well. This was a huge improvement over the old replacement method that was a removable partial denture. You no longer had to take it in and out; it stayed because it was cemented in place. And there were no longer unsightly metal clasps necessary to hold it in place.
But now, dental implants have become the preferred method of tooth replacement. When there is enough bone present, a titanium dental implant can be placed in the bone and acts as a replacement for the root of the tooth. The implant can be restored with a crown and it is as if you never lost the tooth.
There are several reasons implants are a superior tooth replacement choice over fixed bridges.
It is not necessary to involve other teeth to restore the area. Once those adjacent teeth are prepared for a bridge, they are taking two or more times the force and stress than when they were separate. This can set those teeth up for earlier failure. With an implant, all teeth are independent of the implant and therefore, do not sustain any additional force.
If any of the anchor teeth have an issue such as decay or breakage, the entire bridge must be replaced. In the case of a broken anchor tooth, it then requires that more teeth become involved in order to replace the space with another bridge. Again, implants are their own entity, so this is not an issue.
In order to keep the teeth involved with a bridge clean, it is necessary to floss underneath it with a floss threader. This is an extra step and is often skipped by patients. The failure to floss the bridge can lead to recurrent decay and/or bone loss around the anchor teeth, which can lead to tooth loss. Implants can be flossed just like your other teeth. It is truly like you have a natural tooth.
In most cases, implants look more natural than fixed bridges. Often the pontic does not look natural because the bone in that area is sunken in. The implant comes right out of the bone, and in many cases, is placed immediately after the tooth is removed. This helps the bone to be maintained in the area, therefore giving it a more natural look.
There are a few reasons that it may not be possible to have an implant restoration:
The tooth has been missing for a long time and there is an insufficient bone to place the implant.
The cost can be a barrier to this treatment. In some cases, it is more expensive than a bridge initially. However, in the long term, it is not more expensive because most of the time bridges have to be replaced. They do not last forever. Implants, if cared for properly with brushing and flossing, and professional cleanings can last forever. This would eliminate future expenses with the area.
If a patient is immunocompromised (in poor general health) or has been on long-term bisphosphonates, they may not be a good candidate for implants. The success rate is much less predictable with these patients.
The bottom line is it is important to replace missing teeth. When they are not replaced in a timely manner, other teeth will shift and tip, causing undesirable forces to be exerted on the remaining teeth, setting them up for early failure. Either fixed replacement choice will do the job. In my opinion, implants are far superior to fixed bridges, and an overall better choice. It is up to the patient to figure out which choice is right for them. The important thing is that a choice is made to restore the space.
Whether you have missing teeth due to decay, trauma, or other causes, it is wise to replace them and fill in the gaps for a healthy future. There are two replacement procedures your dentist will present to you, implants and bridges, and each one serves a different purpose and offers unique benefits.
If you find yourself in need of a tooth replacement, it is good to understand which technique will work best for your situation, dental implants or dental bridges. This knowledge will then allow you to communicate with your dental professional and feel good about the decisions being made.
Different From the Start
Though each procedure leads to a full set of teeth for the patient, implants and bridges differ from the outset. Dental implants take the place of an entire tooth, root and all, through the insertion of a stem that is anchored in bone. A bridge, on the other hand, relies upon existing teeth to keep it in place by fitting over them like a cap. Each method offers a route to a successful and healthy outcome based on a particular set of criteria that you and your dentist will discuss.
Dental Bridge Benefits
As the name implies, a bridge acts as a connector, filling the gap between two teeth. A bridge can be used to replace one tooth or more, and merely needs at least one other existing tooth to attach to.
Since a bridge does not act as a root for a tooth to sit upon, they do not last as long as implants, but the following benefits make them a very attractive choice:
Inexpensive - Compared to an implant, a bridge is considerably more affordable, which is a common reason for people to select this restoration option.
Efficient - The process of fitting a bridge is straightforward as it does not require bone-grafting, which needs months to become established.
Accessible - Most patients are excellent candidates for a bridge, making this process accessible to a large section of the population.
For those looking for quick and cost-effective results, a dental bridge provides a suitable option for years worth of beautiful smiles.
Benefits of Dental Implants
Patients who possess good bone matter in their root bed can opt for dental implants, which require a bone graft to be initiated for later use. This process is done for each missing tooth, and when the bone graft has fully integrated, the implant stem is inserted into the root bed to become your new tooth.
Unlike a dental bridge, implants take some time to complete, but their advantages are obvious:
Durable- Because implants are embedded in the bone, acting as a natural root, they are incredibly strong and can last twice as long as a bridge.
Healthful- Implants do not affect the teeth surrounding them, which means they will not be subject to decay and reduce the development of periodontal issues.
Reliable- Unlike natural teeth, implants are fused to the bone they are inserted into, making them a dependable tooth replacement.
Though a dental implant is more expensive than a bridge, the benefits they deliver can result in greater cost savings over time.
As you discuss the different procedures with your dentist, you will have time to weigh the pros and cons of each tooth replacement process and better decide which one is right for you. In some cases, both methods may be implemented to restore your bite and smile back to one of overall wellness and beauty.
When you need expert assistance with a thoughtful approach to your dental care, be sure to schedule your next appointment with the friendly professionals at Tempe Smile Design. Once you are part of our family, you can take advantage of emergency benefits, high-quality services, and a dental office that you can trust.