Depending on the number of teeth you are missing, you may need both. Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of each so you can make an informed decision with your cosmetic dentist.
What Is A Bridge?
A dental bridge literally bridges the gap between missing teeth. A bridge is generally made up of two crowns (called an abutment) on either side of the gap with a false tooth in between. The false teeth are called pontics and can be made from a variety of materials — gold, alloys, porcelain, or a combination of these materials. Your cosmetic dentist can help your decide what crown materials is best for you depending on its function, aesthetic considerations and cost. Dental bridges are supported by natural teeth or implants.
Unlike removable devices such as dentures, which you can take out and clean daily, crowns and bridges are cemented onto existing teeth or implants, and can only be removed by a dentist.
The advantages of bridges include:
• Helps to restore your smile
• Helps you to speak and chew properly
• Prevents a sagging facial appearance
• Improves your bite by replacing missing teeth
• Prevents existing teeth from shifting
• Prevents TMJ, headaches and a bad bite caused by missing teeth
How Are Crowns and Bridges Made?
The first step is the tooth that is going to be replaced must be reduced in size so the crown can easily fit over it. After reducing the tooth/teeth, your dentist will take an impression to provide an exact mold for the crown or bridge. A bridge is made to naturally emulate the color of the teeth it is surrounding.
Your dentist will then send out the mold to a dental lab so your new tooth can be made. In the meantime, you will have a temporary crown until the crown or bridge is being made. When the permanent crown or bridge is ready, the temporary crown or bridge is removed, and the new crown or bridge is cemented over your prepared tooth or teeth.Some dental plans will cover a portion of the bridge cost.
The Types of Bridges
Generally, there are three types of bridges:
•Traditional bridges involve creating a crown for the tooth or implant on either side of the missing tooth, with a pontic in between. Traditional bridges are the most common type of bridge and are made of either porcelain fused to metal or ceramics.
• Cantilever bridges are created when there are only teeth on one side.
• Maryland bridges are made or plastic and the surrounding teeth and gums are supported by a metal framework.
For a long time, fixed bridges were the best alternative for people who had lost teeth, as they were quite successful and esthetically pleasing. Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages to bridges because the natural teeth that are on either side of the bridge must be filed down to accommodate the bridge. These teeth can me more prone to bacterial plaque accumulations, decay, periodontal disease, and the possible need for future root canals.
What Are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is a replacement for a tooth’s root that is placed in your jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge. Tooth roots are replaced with metal, screw-like posts and replaces damaged or missing teeth with artificial teeth that look and function much like real ones. You need adequate bone in your jaw to support the implant, and the best candidates have healthy gum tissues that are free of periodontal disease.
The entire process can take many months from start to finish — three to nine months and sometimes longer. Much of that time is devoted to healing and waiting for the growth of new bone in your jaw. However, same day implants are available.
In order to get dental implants, you must have healthy enough gums and bone to hold the implants. At this time, most insurance plans do not cover dental implants, but check your coverage.
Dental implants are ideal for people:
• Missing a single tooth that can be replaced by a crown and implant
• Missing several teeth that can be replaced by an implanted supported bridge
• Replacing all your teeth in which case an implanted supported bridge or denture can be used
• Deformities in the upper or lower jaw can leave you with inadequate bone in which to place dental implants. To correct the problem, the gum is lifted away from the ridge to expose the bony defect. The defect is then filled with bone or bone substitute to build up the ridge
• Who don’t want to wear dentures
Most dental implants are successful, having a 98% success rate. In rare cases,the bone fails to fuse sufficiently to the metal implant. Smoking, for example, can contribute to implant failure and complications.
What Are The Advantages of Dental Implants Over Bridges?
• Traditional bridges usually last five to ten years, but at some point they may need to be replaced. While dental implants may need to be adjusted, they can last a lifetime when properly placed and cared for.
• Missing teeth can lead to bone loss. Dental implants are the only dental restoration option that preserves and stimulates natural bone, actually helping to stimulate bone growth and prevent bone loss.
• Dental implants have a well-deserved reputation for success and are considered “more predictable” than other treatments to replace missing teeth including bridgework, removable appliances and retreatment of failing root canals.
• Dental implants preserve natural tooth tissue by avoiding the need to cut down adjacent teeth for conventional bridgework.
• Dental implants reduce the load on the remaining oral structures/teeth by offering independent support and retention to crowns, bridgework and dentures.
Disadvantages of Implants versus Crowns
• Some people are not good candidates for same day implants, meaning you may have to go without teeth for a limited period of time
• Dental implants can be costly
As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to each procedure. Dental implants represent a much newer technology, one that has revolutionized the dental industry as tooth replacements. Your dentist will sit down with you and discuss which procedure is best for you. It will depend on the health of your teeth, gums and your budget.
No matter if you decide on a bridge or dental implant, oral health is key to ensuring they last as long as possible!
About The Author:
Dr. Jeffrey Pass, DDS, has been in private practice since 1987 and emphasizes cosmetic, restorative, and implant dentistry. A graduate of NYU College of Dentistry, Dr. Pass practiced privately in Manhattan, NY prior to establishing South Florida Dental Care in 1993. He regularly attends continuing education classes and is a member of the American Dental Association, South Florida District Dental Association, South Broward Dental Society, and the Florida branch of The Seattle Study Club.