If you are missing one or more of your natural teeth, you likely want to find out a way to replace them quickly. Replacing those teeth will give you back some self-confidence, and it will minimize some of the problems that can come with missing teeth.
Apart from your aesthetics, you could also be facing gingivitis, jawbone loss, shifting of the teeth, bite problems, tooth decay and other periodontal diseases.
Use the following guide to compare two of the most popular solutions for tooth loss: dental bridges and dental implants.
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What are fixed Dental Bridges?
A bridge is a dental restoration that can replace a few teeth or one tooth by filling a gap between the teeth that remain. It is permanently cemented in place, which means that you don’t have to remove it. In fact, you can’t because only your dentist has the tools.
A bridge has a few false teeth called “pontics” (1 or 2 depending on the number of missing teeth) and anchoring crowns on either side. The pontics are made from gold, porcelain, zirconia, alloys, and other metals. The abutments hold the natural teeth in place.
Your natural teeth need to be shaved down to position the anchoring crowns on top to integrate the bridge to the neighbouring teeth. This is because your teeth have to align so that everything can be strong and look right. That also means that your natural teeth must be healthy to provide for the base.
One con about this method is that the process is irreversible – once your natural teeth are shaved, they cannot be used as regular teeth.
This method might not be the best for people who are missing three or more consecutive teeth – you might want to look for removable or fixed partial dentures.
If it isn’t possible to use a crown on both sides of your gap, you can use a cantilever bridge. This is anchored by one or two crowns and is located on one side of the gap. Of course, it all depends on how much support you really need.
Another alternative is the resin-bonded or Maryland bridge. For this bridge, the pontics have wing-like structures on both side which bond to the adjacent teeth using a cement.
The bridge with this method is not nearly as strong or permanent, meaning that the wing can fall out and will have to be reapplied quite a few times if there is too much force.
But it can be reattached quite easily, so it isn’t a big problem. The good thing is this technique doesn’t really need to alter your natural teeth on each side of the gap, unlike the traditional bridge.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are roots or posts that are usually made of titanium that go into the jawbone and support a crown. They are inserted via a 2 step surgical procedure.
Once inserted, they need time to fuse to the jawbone during what we call the osseointegration phase. That fusion process takes about 3-6 months, and then an abutment is attached to the post. It protrudes from the gums and then a crown is cemented or screwed onto the abutment.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Bridges
There are many benefits to getting a bridge to help with your missing teeth. They include:
• Affordable: bridges don’t cost nearly as much as other solutions. A bridge costs about $900-$3,000 depending on the situation. A more detailed look is below.
• Low risk: If something goes wrong with the bridge, it can be repaired quickly and easily.
• Fast: The procedure doesn’t take more than a few weeks in most cases.
• natural Look: A skilled technician will make your bridge to match with the color and shape of your natural teeth. You likely won’t even see a difference between the bridge and your other teeth.
• Easy procedure: Fitting a installing a bridge is straightforward for most dentists.
There are also some drawbacks to getting a bridge. They include:
• Damage to natural teeth: This solution involves removing a lot of your tooth’s structure from your adjacent teeth. Once this is done, thee teeth cannot be used as regular teeth and will always require a crown
• Risk of cavities and decay: By shaving down those anchor teeth, you automatically increase the risk of decay so you will likely need root canals as a result.
• Replacements: they usually need to be replaced every 6 -10 years, as over time you may experience gum with bone loss right under the bridge owing to the lack of stimulation, which is why implants are usually a better fit in the long run regarding bone preservation.
Bridges Compared to Implants
|Bridges vs implants comparison
|How long they last
|6 -10 years
|over 15 years
|Long term effect
|no bone loss
|need special floss
|natural but gap issue over time
|best looking in the long run
|a few weeks
You should look at the following factors when trying to choose between a dental bridge or an implant:
1. Insurance Coverage
Bridges are usually covered by dental insurance plans, so you should be able to have a lot of the cost covered. Implants are rarely, if ever, covered by plans unless it is an extreme situation. However, you might be able to get your insurance company to cover a portion of the cost of the crown.
Implants, if they are well maintained, should last for life in most patients who are 45 or older. Crowns may need to be replaced about every decade due to normal wear. However the implant itself, fused with your jaw bone should last forever. Moreover the implant is a stand alone solution that doesn’t depend on ay other teeth, as is the case for bridges.
Bridges usually need to be replaced every 7-10 years either because of some bone loss or of bad improper oral hygiene.
3. Bone change
Gum and bone loss may occur under a bridge, especially where the missing tooth used to be, which will affect and destabilize the bridge anchor teeth as a result. On the other hand, an implant will preserve the bone and gums because by transmitting some chewing forces, it stimulates the surrounding area and prevent tissues from deteriorating. Implants help to preserve bone in the long run.
4. Oral Hygiene
You will need to get a special tool or floss to clean under your bridge pontics to keep everything healthy and avoid plaque to build up if you want to keep it for years. Implants, on the other hand, will also require to good oral hygiene but you can clean the implant like a normal tooth.
Bridges will look normal at the start, but any bone or gum loss can lead to gaps, under the pontics, that may show through. An implant will look much more natural without this issue in the long run.
6. Procedure duration
Bridges take about 2-3 visits and can be completed within a few weeks. Implants require more time – 3-6 months – and you can need quite a few procedures, including bone grafts or sinus lifts as additional procedures.
7. Cost Comparison
|Cost of bridges vs implants for one tooth
|Traditional bridge (included cantilever)
|Maryland bridge (wings)
What is the cost of bridges? When you are figuring out the cost, you might want to look at the following:
• Number of teeth being replaced & the location in your mouth
• Material your bridge will be made from (metal allow covered in porcelain, composite resin, zirconia, etc.)
• If they need to treat your anchoring teeth beforehand
• Experience of your dentist
• Popularity of your dentist
• The location of the dental practice : small town vs big cities
Traditional or cantilever bridges (a three unit bridge with 1 false tooth and 2 anchor crowns) will cost between $1,000-$3,000.
For a Maryland bridge, each wing costs about $200-$400 and each replacement tooth will fall anywhere between $500-$1,000. So the total bill (one replacement tooth + 2 wings will end up being between $900 and $1,800.
When it comes to implants, the budget required is usually higher. Bridges cost less than implants, but implants last longer, so you will have to do some math to see which is really your best fit.
The Factors that affect the implant price include:
• Complexity of the surgery
• How many teeth you need replaced
• Which teeth you need replaced
• Material and brand of your crown, post, and abutment
• Surgeon’s experience and popularity
In the USA, implants will cost around $4k, including the crown and abutment. If it is used to support a bridge, then the cost of those 2-6 dental implants that you need range from $3,000-$40,000+. A 3-4 unit bridge that is supported by 2 dental implants will cost between $3,000 and $14,000. ( keep in mind here bridges are supported by implants so that adds up to the total cost)
Decision time – Which Should You Choose?
This is by far the best option if the budget is not a problem. Implants are longer lasting and look the best. They may be expensive, but they last longer and are the best option available. You won’t need to look around for replacements and the implant into your jaw bone helps keep your existing teeth, gums, and bones healthy.
If money is really an issue, there are ways to knock down the cost as we listed some easy way to get ore affordable implants here.
If money is a problem or you want to avoid surgery, then maybe you want to go with a bridge. Implant surgery doesn’t work for everyone, especially people who have problems with some medical conditions that could hinder the implant integration in the jawbone and lead to failure.
If you have any medical problems that prohibit you from implants, dental bridges are your next best bet. You won’t need to have invasive surgery and your results will be quicker than with implants, though they might not last as long.
Of course, as always take you time to discuss your options with your dentist, who will be able to recommend you the best solution based on your preferences and budget. That is why it is crucial to find a good one,(check our article with tips).