Losing a tooth due to a cavity, injury or illness is a frustrating situation. If you don't address the empty space, you can end up with gum or jaw issues in the future. Two common treatments for a missing or extracted tooth are dental bridges and dental implants. Figuring out which one is right for you can make a big difference in achieving a positive outcome after your dentist visits.
What Is a Dental Bridge?
Dental bridges use one or more teeth around the gap to support a crown. The most common bridge type is a traditional one that spans the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth. The teeth that neighbor the space are prepped for crowns and are the supports for the false tooth between them.
What Is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant uses an anchor post that is placed in bone to support a crown rather than relying on the remaining teeth surrounding the area. The post is made out of a durable material, typically titanium, and a crown tops this structure and makes it look like a natural tooth.
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Pros and Cons of Dental Bridges
Dental bridges are slightly less expensive than the typical dental implant procedure. A dental bridge takes less time from start to finish than a dental implant. You don't have to go in for as many procedures, and your overall recovery time should be lower. A bridge does not require having healthy bone levels, and can be used in areas that have minimal jaw bone underneath the space. Moreover, the success of a bridge does not depend as much on how your bone heals after an extraction, like a dental implant would.
The traditional bridge can't sit in place without removing part of the enamel on the teeth it attaches to, which permanently alters them. The bridge could also require replacement as you age, which can drive the cost up. Because a bridge is connected from one end to the other, you are not able to traditionally floss through the teeth, and food can accumulate under the bridge making them more prone to decay and bone loss. Special flossers must be used to keep them clean. A bridge also puts more pressure on the natural tooth, as it has to support a larger biting surface area than just itself.
Pros and Cons of Dental Implants
Dental implants attach directly to the jawbone, so you don't have to worry about damage or increased pressure to your other teeth. They allow you to floss between your teeth and maintain proper hygiene. You get a natural looking result that's durable and can last for a lifetime. The crown may need to be replaced, but the post usually stays in place in the bone.
Dental implants involve implanting the support structures directly into your jaw, with a longer recovery process than a bridge would have. You may need additional procedures before the implant process to remove a damaged tooth or address other areas of concern. Your jawbone must also be healthy enough to support the post structure.
Making Your Dental Decision
Choosing between dental bridges and implants is a challenging task. Each method has its own pros and cons, and ultimately the best decision for your dental health is a deeply personal one. Consult with your dentist to go over your options and get assistance with your choice.