Dental Implant vs. Dental Bridge
If you’re missing a single natural tooth, you might be trying to decide between a dental implant and a dental bridge. Each dental restoration choice comes with its own set of pros and cons, and your dentist can review the specific options that might work for your clinical needs, your preferences, and your budget, but there are some basics it can be helpful to know as you begin researching your options and gathering information.
A dental bridge can be a suitable dental restoration option for people who are missing a tooth between two healthy teeth. The dental bridge consists of an artificial tooth that is held between two dental crowns; these crowns are cemented onto the adjacent healthy teeth and support the artificial tooth, much like the supports at each end of a bridge hold up the bridge span itself. The porcelain for each of these crowns is colored to match the surrounding teeth, but there can still be a somewhat unnatural appearance with dental bridges, which makes them more suitable for dental restorations toward the back of the mouth.
A dental implant is a small post made of biocompatible material, usually titanium, that is surgically implanted into the bone in the jaw, where it acts as a bedrock for an artificial tooth, like a dental crown, or a row of multiple teeth. These artificial teeth can be made of lustrous porcelain that is tinted and shaped to match the existing natural teeth. Dental implants look and feel natural and are durable when cared for properly. Dental implants also confer an additional benefit, in that they revive the health of the bone that supports them by exercising it. When there is no tooth root present to stimulate bone growth, the bone begins to deteriorate, and this affects the appearance of the lower face and the smile. Because dental implants are made of material that reacts beneficially with bone tissue, and because they support prosthetic teeth that bear the forces of biting and chewing, dental implants stimulate the continued health of the bone just as a tooth root would, and they can also help restore the shape of the face. Dental implants are highly recommended for patients who wish to replace missing teeth in the area known as the aesthetic zone, the front of the mouth that is most visible when speaking and smiling.
While dental bridges are usually less expensive than dental implants, they are also more noticeable. It may be necessary to modify the shape of the natural teeth in order for them to accommodate the crowns that support dental bridges, and many people prefer to leave their healthy teeth undamaged. Dental bridges can usually be completed over the course of two visits in just a few weeks, while it’s not uncommon for the completion of a dental implant to take six months or longer. All of these considerations should be accounted for as you plan your dental restoration, and your dental professional can help you decide which treatment option will best help restore the integrity and attractiveness of your smile within a timeframe and a budget that is manageable for you.