Dental Implant vs Dental Bridge: Which Is Best for You?
Although we all hope that losing teeth is an event that stays confined to our bad dreams, that isn’t always the case. According to the CDC, by age 50, most Americans have lost an average of 12 teeth.
Fortunately, we aren’t in the dark ages – modern dentists have some great techniques for replacing lost teeth and keeping the ones you still have perfectly aligned.
Let’s dive into these dental options, their pros and cons, and which one suits your circumstances.
What Is a Dental Bridge?
First, we’ll explain dental bridges. These are, in the simplest of terms, “false teeth” that are secured in your mouth by your other teeth.
The bridge is typically made from porcelain or plastic, and the attached crowns can be made to match your exact tooth color so that no one is the wiser about your lost tooth.
There are three main types of dental bridges:
- Traditional fixed bridges (the most common and supported by crowns)
- Cantilever bridges (only one side is supported – not two)
- Maryland bonded bridges (porcelain is fused to metal to create “wings”)
The type of bridge you need will depend on how many teeth you have lost and other factors, so you’ll need to discuss the options in-depth with a trained dentist.
All in all, dental bridges are considered to be relatively cost-effective, safe methods of handling tooth loss. However, they do come with some drawbacks alongside their benefits.
Pros and Cons of Choosing a Dental Bridge
Pro #1: Insurance typically covers some portion of a Dental Bridge
A typical dental insurance plan will almost always cover some portion of the cost of a traditional dental bridge. This makes bridges an affordable, practical choice for many patients.
Pro #2: No Surgery.
Although cost is often the deciding factor for patients, most are thrilled to hear that dental bridges do not require bone grafting or any surgery. You’ll only need to visit your dentist a couple of times over the course of a few weeks to get your bridge fitted and installed.
Con #1: Bridges Need to Be Replaced
One drawback to dental bridges is that their lifespan is more limited. Most research shows the average bridge lasts for 12 years of service, though in the right situation we see many bridges last much longer to this. The other limitation of bridges is if either of the teeth holding the bridge became severely damaged, another bridge may no longer be an option.
Con #2: Dental Hygiene Becomes More Challenging
Unfortunately, because these “fake teeth” are created by connecting two other teeth, hygiene can be more difficult with an increased risk of cavities and tooth decay in the surrounding teeth. If you have a bridge installed, you’ll need to be diligent when it comes to flossing, brushing, and scheduling professional cleanings.
For many patients, the pros and cons of dental bridges are equally weighted. However, don’t forget we have a second option when it comes to handling lost teeth: dental implants.
What Is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is inserted directly into the patient’s bone where a tooth is missing. Typically, the implant is made from titanium, and the material of the attached crown (or even bridge) can be made to look nearly identical to your natural teeth.
Clearly, the big difference is that dental implants are implanted directly into the bone while bridges hide the gaps between missing teeth with artificial teeth.
Dental implants are often recommended to patients who suffer from tooth loss due to:
- Periodontal disease
- Accidental injury
Overall, dental implants are a bit more complex than dental bridges – but don’t rule them out just yet. For many, they’re still a good (if not better) choice. Let’s look at some of the good and bad that come with dental implants.
Pros and Cons of Choosing Dental Implants
Pro #1: Implants Are Highly Durable + Long-Lasting
Compared to other options (like dentures or dental bridges), implants are by far the most durable. The implants are fused directly to your jaw bone, which ensures they function and can be expected to last as long as a perfectly healthy natural tooth.
If taken good care of, they function as a normal set of teeth. You can almost forget you lost teeth in the first place. Additionally, modern dental implants can last a lifetime with proper care and are typically recognized as the longest-lasting option on the market.
Pro #2: You’ll Have Natural-Looking Teeth
Yes, dental bridges can also look very natural, but implants win when it comes to looking and feeling the most like real teeth. Chances are, no one else will even know you’ve had an implant inserted unless you tell them.
Pro #3: Implants Aren’t as Detrimental to Oral Health
From a hygienic standpoint, dental implants definitely have the upper hand on bridges. The implant will not harm the other teeth around it, and you will be much less likely to have recurrent decay, and cavities. Sure, you’ll still need to be diligent about cleaning, but the risks are much lower.
Con #1: A Longer Process
The first drawback that comes with choosing an implant over a bridge is the timeline. With a dental bridge, you can expect to be back to smiling at friends (with a full set of teeth) in about one to two weeks. With an implant, you’re looking at a period of more like 12 to 16 weeks.
Con #2: Implants Are More Expensive
Another big concern with implants is that they are not as affordable upfront. Dental implants can easily cost $3,000 or more per lost tooth.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that this implant is much less likely to need to be replaced compared to a dental bridge.
Con #3: Surgery Is Necessary
The last con we want to discuss is simple: you’ll need to have the implant placed into your jawbone. While the thought of this may make some patients apprehensive, modern techniques allow for this to be a simple procedure performed in about 30 minutes; you can even return to work that same day should you choose.
As with any surgery, there is still the risk of infection, damage to adjacent teeth or structures, and post-operative discomfort. Current statistics however implants to be successful 95-98% of the time, however.
So, Which Is the Better Option in Bridge VS Implant?
This is a case where there isn’t a right or wrong choice – it all depends on your situation, including how many teeth you’ve lost, your budget, your timeline, and your preferences.
The best thing to do? Talk about all of these pros and cons with an experienced dentist.
At Jones & Copeland Smiles, we’ve helped many patients tackle the process of replacing missing teeth. Whether you just recently lost a tooth or you’ve been hiding your smile for years, our expert dental team wants to help you.
To discuss dental bridges and implants, and the general process for handling lost teeth, schedule an appointment with our Flowery Branch office. You can give us a call at 770-299-4905 or book a consultation online.
First published: Dec 11, 2019
Updated: August 23, 2021