Teeth play an intrinsic role in the appearance of our smiles, which in turn affects the way we project our friendliness and confidence to others. Missing front teeth can cause us to feel less than adequate in social and professional situations. Missing back teeth can make your cheeks look depressed and jaws more prominent. They also tend to make you look older than you really are.
While many tooth loss patients still opt for removable dentures, some complain about their lack of stability and how they interfere with one’s lifestyle. Unlike removable dentures, the dental bridge and dental implants offer a permanent solution to address the problem of missing teeth.
In the not-too-distant past, the bridge was your only choice for teeth replacement. As the name suggests, the dental bridge is used to bridge the gap between one or more missing teeth.
A dental bridge consists of artificial teeth (or pontics) that are made of gold, porcelain, alloys or a combination of these substances. The bridge is supported by two or more crowns, known as the anchoring teeth that are present on either side of the missing teeth.
Dental implants present the most advanced treatment option for both single or multiple missing teeth. They consist of titanium posts that are surgically placed within the jawbone to serve as anchors for your replacement teeth. The number of implants used depends on the number of missing teeth (e.g. one post for a single replacement tooth and 6 posts for a full arch of fixed prosthesis).
Which is a better option?
Like any dental treatment, there are pros and cons to choosing either option. It really depends on your situation and the type of solution that best suits you. Here are some of the major points of consideration, and how the two treatments vary for each:
Affordability: Dental implants are the costlier option, as the treatment involves expensive materials and technology, not to mention the dentist’s hefty investment in continuing education to acquire the specialized clinical skills and knowledge before becoming a qualified implant dentist.
Aesthetics: Dental implants look and function more or less like your natural teeth. The artificial teeth are designed to fit the gap (where there are missing teeth) precisely using tooth-like material that blends seamlessly with your natural teeth.
Unlike an implant, the prosthetic tooth of a dental bridge is not embedded in the gum. Hence the false teeth of a dental bridge tend to be slightly more noticeable than that of an implant.
That is why to obtain a more natural-looking smile, implants are generally recommended for replacing your front teeth, with the more affordable dental bridge used for the back teeth.
Procedure: Dental implants involve a surgical process, which is more patient-involved, procedure intensive and time consuming. As opposed to a dental bridge that takes about two visits within a fortnight, it takes 3-6 months just waiting for the titanium to be fused to the jawbone. In other words, if time or budget is a constraint, dental implants may not be the best option for you.
Durability: With an average lifespan of 20 years, dental implants are more durable than dental bridges. For comparison, a dental bridge can last up to 10 years.
The main reason for this is due to the way the titanium implants are biologically fused to your jawbone providing a strong and durable anchor. Unlike the titanium post which is resistant to decay and gum problems, the dental bridge is essentially a fixed dental device subject to wear and tear over time, which may result in your teeth becoming more vulnerable to decay and gum disease.
Damage to natural teeth: In preparation for the installation of a dental bridge, the dentist would have to remove a considerable amount of tooth structure from your natural teeth. By comparison, the procedure for dental implants better preserves your natural tooth structure.
Still not sure whether to go with dental implants or dental bridge? Our cosmetic dentist will be glad to help.