When it comes to missing teeth replacement, you have several options available – Well, actually you have three – but we’ll come to that in a while. In the meantime, your options are dental implants or a dental bridge. But in the great dental bridge vs implant debate, which is the best method for you? Let’s face it, losing a tooth can have a serious impact on the aesthetics of your smile and even when the said gap isn’t in your immediate smile line, it can cause a whole heap of other issues which will further impact on your smile. Therefore the reality is that the third option of doing nothing isn’t really an option at all! Here’s why…
Once a tooth is missing, any remaining bone tissue that supported the tooth root starts to absorb back into the body. Bone resorption, as it’s known, continues year after year but is at its most prevalent during the first 12 months. Did you know for example that around 25% of all jaw bone tissue can be lost during the first year?
This means that your facial features will change shape and the once taught skin supporting the cheeks and mouth will, unfortunately, start to sag, making you appear older than your years.
But that’s not all…
In addition, the remaining teeth will start to gravitate towards the gap and as they do they become misaligned. So why is this?
Imagine an arch made of stone. Each stone in that arch relies on the support of the one next to it to provide strength, and to keep it in position. Now take a stone away and the whole arch is likely to move and collapse. This is the same with your teeth – Okay, so they’re unlikely to collapse as the tooth root is anchored into position, but they will move and it’s this that causes misalignment.
Of course, in addition to causing bite problems, crooked or misaligned teeth are more difficult to clean and floss making them a haven for plaque and bacteria. Ultimately, when you ignore a missing tooth, you are placing your remaining teeth at greater risk.
Okay, so that’s the bad news…
The good news, however, is that the remaining two options – dental implants or a dental bridge, can restore form to your smile and function and support to the teeth. However, while both approaches address the same factors, they are fundamentally different in many ways. As such they should or will have an impact on your dental decision. Let’s take a closer look at how each method works and the pros and cons of each.
What is a dental bridge?
Dental bridges have been around in one form or another for thousands of years. In fact, archaeologists discovered the remains of an Egyptian 4000-year-old mummy with what is possibly the world’s first dental bridge. The fact that dental bridges are still used today – albeit in a less crude form – is a testament to their reliability. Ask the 15 million or so people worldwide, who wear them.
As the name suggests a dental bridge is made up of at least 2 or more crowns. One or two crowns are attached to the teeth adjacent to the gap while the remaining crown spans or ‘bridges’ the tooth gap.
When the bridge is in place, it provides structure, support, and aesthetics to a smile. A dental bridge can also be fitted in as little as 2-3 hours over two visits and doesn’t require any form of surgical procedure. It’s quick, it’s unlikely to break the bank and above all, it’s effective.
All good so far, but what about the disadvantages?
A conventional bridge relies heavily on the adjacent natural teeth for support. These are ground down and reshaped so that the supporting crowns can sit on top. Naturally, reshaping the teeth in this way can compromise them considerably.
What’s more, do you remember what we said about bone loss when natural teeth are missing?
Unfortunately, because the spanning or bridging tooth is ‘crown specific’ in other words, it doesn’t have a tooth root, then it can’t halt the bone loss process. This means that over time and as the jaw shape continues to change, the dental bridge will need replacing. Typically you can expect a dental bridge to last just 5-10 years.
What about dental implants, do they fare any better?
A dental implant is, in essence, a fancy metal post. A highly-engineered, technologically-sound metal post, but a metal post all the same. Usually fashioned from titanium, the metal rod is ‘implanted’ directly into the jawbone of the tooth gap.
Titanium is considered among the most biocompatible materials which mean that it’s compatible with many things, particularly bone tissue. This means that once the implant is anchored down into the jawbone, any remaining bone tissue will fuse with it over time. This is a process known as osseointegration and after 3-4 months what you end up with is a super-strong, standalone platform.
Once the implant is fully secure, a crown is placed on top and hey presto, you have a fully restored, natural-looking tooth.
What’s more, once the implant is in position, it can actually halt the bone loss process. How so?
In a clever act of biomimicry, any remaining bone tissue believes that the dental implant is, in fact, a new tooth root and will go through the process of supporting it. Ultimately, this means that the body won’t reabsorb the calcium in the tissue and disperse it somewhere else because it believes it to be of use – which, in effect, it is. No more bone loss and no more jaw shrinkage! Instead, a hassle-free tooth replacement that you don’t have to worry about.
That said, while it sounds like the perfect solution, dental implants are not without their considerations, namely:
Dental implant cost
There’s no getting away from the elephant in the room – the dental implants cost! so let’s address this right away…
Anyone finding out about dental implants for the first time will probably be taken aback by the cost of dental implants treatment here in Australia. At somewhere between $3500and $8000 per tooth, it certainly doesn’t come cheap. So, when you compare it to the cost of a dental bridge -around $1200– it’s going to seem like a bit of a no-brainer.
However, what we have to take into account here is the longevity factor. We’ve already stated that the average shelf life of a dental bridge is around 5-10 years. Well, the average life of a dental implant if cared for correctly is several decades and more.
In fact, did you know that the very first implant-based restoration implanted in a human being in 1965 was still going strong until the patient’s death in 2006? That’s a little over forty years!
The point is, that while initially pricey, dental implants could save you money in the long term. What’s more, many implant dentists offer ways to spread the payments making it a more affordable option.
Getting implants is a lengthy procedure from start to finish
Here’s the thing…while dental bridges can be fitted in around 3 hours spanning 2 visits, conventional implants can take anywhere between 4-9 months to complete. While the actual surgery time is minimal – just 10-20 minutes in some digital implant cases – it’s the osseointegration (bone fusion) process that can’t be rushed. Only once the implant is totally secure and fused to the bone, should the crown be placed.
Moreover, in many cases where teeth have been missing for a while, bone tissue will be minimal. As dental implants need a good supply of healthy bone to anchor into, bone graft surgery may have to be undertaken prior to receiving implants. This can easily add another month or so onto the process.
That said, many dentists including us here at the Digital Dental Implants Institute in Sydney use state-of-the-art digital implant placement. Now, using computer-guided methods, implants are placed so accurately that in some cases it isn’t always necessary for a bone graft.
So, there you have it, all you need to know about a dental bridge vs implant! Which one would you opt for? A cheaper quick fix solution which will need replacing or an initially expensive, long-term, hassle-free tooth replacement that is set to last.
If you’d like to discuss more about your dental bridge vs implant options, then come and talk to our experienced team at the Digital Dental Surgery Sydney. We offer the very best solutions to restore your smile once and for all. Call today for a consultation on 02 8294 5812.