Many people will lose teeth, often because of gum disease, trauma or severe tooth decay. Here at Tandara Dental Centre, we realise losing even a single tooth can be upsetting, and if you are facing tooth loss, we can help you decide on a suitable replacement quickly.
Replacing missing teeth is important for supporting your remaining natural teeth and facial muscles, ensuring you can eat and talk without difficulty.
Potential solutions include a dental implant or a dental bridge.
What Is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant artificially replaces a real tooth, including the tooth root. Conventional implants have three separate components, including an implant post or screw inserted surgically into the jawbone. The surgical procedure to insert the post is quite short and can often be completed using just a local anaesthetic.
Once the implant is placed, it begins to osseointegrate, gradually fusing the implant into the jawbone. In three to six months, you will have a strong, stable anchorage point for a new replacement tooth. After healing, we attach an abutment to the implant post. It protrudes above the gumline, supporting the replacement tooth.
The post supports an implant crown. If you have several teeth missing side by side, two or more implants can support an implant bridge. There is no need to restore every single tooth with a dental implant. Dental implant crowns and bridges are screwed or cemented onto the abutment.
What Is a Dental Bridge?
A dental bridge spans or bridges the gap left behind by a missing tooth, relying on adjacent teeth on either side of the gap for support. These teeth are called abutment teeth and must be reshaped and covered with dental crowns cemented onto these teeth. A pontic, a replacement tooth is attached between the crowns and rests directly on the gums. A dental bridge is a non-removable dental restoration that is cemented onto the abutment teeth.
The result is a strong, stable restoration covering three teeth, two abutment teeth and one pontic. When multiple teeth are missing side-by-side, it is possible to create a larger bridge consisting of two abutment teeth on either side and two or more pontics or replacement teeth in between.
Sometimes teeth are missing on one side of the gap, so we may suggest a cantilever bridge. A single crown supports a cantilever bridge. It is fitted over the available tooth on one side of the gap, and the pontic is attached to the crown.
Another option is a Maryland bridge. Unlike a conventional bridge where crowns cover the abutment teeth, Maryland bridges have wings made from metal or ceramic that fit on the inner surfaces of your abutment teeth so are practically invisible.
Maryland bridges don’t require abutment teeth to be substantially reshaped but are only really used to replace front teeth because they cannot withstand substantial chewing forces.
Dental Implants vs Dental Bridges
There are several important differences between these treatments.
The procedure for a dental bridge is non-surgical and usually completed within a few weeks. The abutment teeth are prepared, where they are ground down and shaped for dental crowns.
Once the teeth are shaped, we take a detailed dental impression to send to our dental lab, where they make your bridge to our exact design and specifications.
While your bridge is made, we fit a temporary restoration to protect your prepared teeth and ensure you can eat and talk comfortably. Once the bridge is ready, we try it in, make any necessary adjustments and cement it firmly in place.
The procedure for a dental implant is more complex. We need to assess your suitability for implant treatment before taking diagnostic images that include a cone beam CT scan. Our dentist uses this scan to assess your jawbone quality and to plan each stage of your treatment.
Dental implants are placed during a short surgery, typically about an hour for a single implant. If you are nervous, we can discuss sedation options to help you relax. Once complete, we might fit a temporary tooth while the implant heals, a process that takes around three to six months. When the implant has healed, you return to our practice to receive your new implant crown.
Treatment is completed using local anaesthetic, and recovery should be fast. The abutment teeth might feel slightly more sensitive initially, but these feelings should disappear within a few days.
Recovery after a single dental implant should also be quite quick. Many people feel little or no discomfort after surgery. There might be some minor discomfort and swelling that should disappear as the gums heal. It takes several months for the implant to fuse with the jawbone.
Dental bridges are comparatively lesser. The cost of a bridge depends on the length of the bridge and the number of teeth being replaced. A traditional bridge normally covers three teeth, including the two abutment crowns and the replacement tooth or pontic.
Initially, the cost of a single implant is more than the cost of a three-tooth bridge. This is because the procedure requires specialised training and skills and equipment.
High-quality implant components can also be expensive as they are made from medical-grade pure titanium or zirconia and have been extensively researched and tested.
Maintenance is straightforward, but you need to clean around each crown carefully, and you must clean underneath the pontic since food could become trapped here.
You can use special dental floss or other tools to clean underneath the pontic thoroughly to avoid dental bridge problems developing, such as infection and decay.
Caring for a single implant crown is very easy as you can brush and floss it just like a natural tooth.
A dental bridge could last for eight – ten, or sometimes more years with proper care and maintenance. Eventually, it will need replacing.
Dental implants should last for years or even for life with proper care and maintenance. You may have to replace the implant crown periodically, but it could last for ten years or more.
Dental bridges are made from porcelain fused to a metal substructure (PFM), zirconia, a strong ceramic material or other strong ceramics.
Dental implant screws and abutments are made from medical grade titanium or zirconia. An implant crown or bridge is made from PFM or zirconia, or other strong ceramics.
Impact on Natural Teeth
Healthy abutment teeth must be substantially reshaped for the crowns supporting the bridge. These teeth are more at risk of tooth decay or root canal treatment in the future, especially as the bridge ages and could start to leak, letting in infectious bacteria.
Dental implants are free-standing and do not damage healthy teeth. Instead, they help to protect them. A dental implant also protects the jawbone, acting as a tooth root and providing essential stimulation to ensure the bone remains healthy and strong.
|Dental Bridges||Dental Implants|
|Recovery||Quick recovery||Initial quick recovery but a longer healing period|
|Cost||Lower up-front costs||Higher up-front cost|
|Maintenance||Care needed to clean around pontic||Implant crowns are cleaned like a natural tooth|
|Lifespan||Needs replacing after ten years or so||They can last for many years|
|Materials||PFM and zirconia||PFM and zirconia|
|Impact on natural teeth||Abutment teeth at higher risk of tooth decay in the future||Protects natural teeth and jawbone|
How to Choose the Best Option for You?
Several factors must be considered, including dental and overall health, the time needed for each treatment and costs. Although dental implant costs more initially, in the longer term, it can be more cost-effective. When you need to replace the restoration, you only need to cover the cost of a single crown, whereas, with a bridge, you need to pay for a three-tooth bridge.
However, not everyone wants or is suitable for oral surgery, and a dental bridge can provide excellent results within a short time frame.
During your initial consultation at Tandara Dental Centre, we can discuss both options more fully and show you examples of each, including the different materials available.
We also encourage questions so by the time you leave our practice, you will know all about the pros of each treatment, potential implant and dental bridge problems, and the dental bridge cost per tooth compared with an implant tooth.