Studies show 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. From decay to extraction, there are many reasons you might have a gap to fill! Leaving the area unmanaged can increase your risk of infection, affect your bite, and cause oral pain. Thankfully, there are two primary options you can consider when you’re ready to replace your missing teeth: bridges and implants. While the two share some similarities, there are major differences to understand too.
Today, we’re here to distinguish between dental bridges and an implants so you can choose the route that best fits your needs.
What is a dental bridge?
As its name implies, a dental bridge is used to bridge the gap in your smile created by a missing tooth. The bridge itself is comprised of a false tooth or teeth (called a pontic). The healthy teeth on either side of the gap (called abutment teeth) hold the pontic in place.
While you can find pontics in a variety of materials, modern versions are most commonly made of porcelain. This way, they can mimic and blend in well with your existing teeth.
There are a few different types of dental bridges. Let’s briefly review the most common ones.
Traditional Dental Bridge
With a traditional bridge, the pontic is held in place by dental crowns cemented on top of the abutment teeth. This is the most popular type of bridge and works if the teeth on both sides of your gap are natural and healthy.
Maryland Dental Bridge
Maryland bridges also employ two natural abutment teeth; however, instead of using dental crowns to hold the pontic in place (like a traditional bridge), this type of bridge uses a metal or porcelain framework. The framework bonds to the back of the abutment teeth and does not require as much modification to their enamel.
Cantilever Dental Bridge
Do you only have one natural tooth surrounding your dental gap? If so, your dentist will recommend a cantilever dental bridge. With this approach, the pontic is secured in place by a single crown cemented onto an adjacent abutment tooth.
What is a dental implant?
Like a dental bridge, an implant is also a solution for one or more missing teeth. However, an implant isn’t held in place by your surrounding teeth.
Instead, it includes three main components, including:
- A custom-made artificial tooth (called a crown)
- A titanium post/implant
- An abutment that secures the crown to the implant
Unlike a bridge, you’ll require dental surgery to receive an implant. Typically, this procedure is performed under sedation.
First, your oral surgeon or periodontist will insert the post surgically. Then, they will fuse it to your jawbone to anchor it into position. The post frame will protrude a little above your gumline once that procedure is complete.
From there, the surgeon will attach the abutment to the frame, followed by the crown on top. In this way, the implant or post itself becomes the new “root” of your artificial tooth.
Single Tooth vs. Multiple Teeth Implants
If you have only one missing tooth, a single-tooth implant can make a world of difference. But what happens when you have multiple teeth missing in a row? In this case, an implant-bridge hybrid is often the recommended route forward.
An implant-bridge hybrid, or implant-supported bridge, uses dental implants, rather than crowns or frameworks, to fill in a gap. In most cases, your surgeon will secure one implant in place for each missing tooth. Together, these implants work to hold the bridge snugly in position. If it isn’t possible to use one implant per missing tooth, your dentist may suspend a pontic between two implant-supported crowns.
Though it’s one of the most durable and long-lasting solutions, this procedure will require two separate surgeries. First, your oral surgeon will place the implants into your jawbone. Then, they will conduct a second surgery to place the bridge.
Dental Bridges vs. Implants: Analyzing the Major Differences
Both dental bridges and dental implants can help restore your smile and confidence. With that said, which one should you choose?
Let’s take a look at the key differences between these two procedures.
While a dental implant will usually cost more than a bridge, consider the long-term return on your investment. Most bridges aren’t designed to last a lifetime, while implants are. Over time, an implant becomes the more financially sound option, as you aren’t required to replace it every 10 years or so like a bridge.
A dental bridge is quicker to perform than an implant. In fact, most only require around two visits over the course of a few weeks. With an implant, the waiting time is a little longer, as it can take up to six months for your jawbone to grow around the implant’s titanium post.
Overall, an implant is more secure, durable, and permanent than a bridge. This is because an implant addresses and helps correct the underlying structural problems that might be present after your teeth are removed.
A bridge might aesthetically fill in your gap, but it isn’t able to address chronic, long-term challenges, such as the loss of bone density in your jawbone. Over time, these issues can continue to advance, requiring bridge removal and replacement.
Thanks to advancements in dental technology, bridges are more natural-looking than ever before. Still, most are at least slightly visible, especially if they’re placed toward the front of your mouth. On the other hand, an implant is designed to mimic the look and feel of your real teeth, blending in seamlessly and creating a natural, attractive look.
A dental implant does more than restore your appearance. It can actually help strengthen your jawbone! If you lose a tooth for any reason, your jawbone can begin to shrink over time. This can change your face shape and affect your smile. As an implant is surgically inserted into this bone, every time you bite or chew using the new tooth, you will strengthen it.
With a dental bridge, the pontic doesn’t come into contact with your jawbone, meaning it doesn’t deliver the same effect.
Your Experts for Restorative Dentistry
When you’re ready to restore your smile and fill in any gaps in your teeth, we’d love to help.
We’re experts in all aspects of dentistry, from restorative and cosmetic services to preventive approaches. We’ll share additional details on a dental bridge vs. an implant to guide you toward the safest and most effective solution. If you’re ready to learn more, schedule an appointment today!