When replacing a single tooth, two of the most popular options include dental implants and bridges. So what are the differences between dental implants and bridges, and how will you know which is best for you? Obviously, what’s best for you might not be best for someone else. Your individual needs play a big part in what option you ultimately choose. To make the best choice, you’ll need to know more about what factors to consider when deciding what option is best for you.
What Are Dental Bridges?
A dental bridge is basically three tooth crowns that are attached to one another where your tooth gaps would normally be. To replace a missing tooth with a bridge, your dentist will remove tooth enamel from the teeth next to the gap to fit the dental bridge on them. So the bridge fits onto your natural teeth almost like building blocks or puzzle pieces would fit together. The tooth crown in the middle fills the gap in your mouth, so it doesn’t fit onto a tooth. Instead, it rests on your gums and is held in place by your other teeth.
Dental bridges have been around for longer than dental implants. It’s a reliable, easy way to replace teeth, but there are some disadvantages to using a dental bridge, more on that later.
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are standalone tooth replacements. With dental implants, other teeth aren’t used to hold the replacement tooth in place. Instead, a post implanted into your jaw and your replacement tooth is fitted onto it. While bridges only replace the crown of your tooth (which is the part of the tooth visible above the gum line, dental implants include the implant post, so they also replace your tooth root. Replacing your missing tooth root has certain health advantages, but the procedure can be complex for some patients.
Dental Bridges vs Implants: Pros and Cons
There are pros and cons to both replacement options, but generally, dental implants are considered to be more reliable. The problem is that not all patients are equally good candidates for the procedure, and the cost difference between dental implants and bridges is rather large.
Despite this, dental bridges are pretty reliable, so they’re definitely worth considering. Here are some of the advantages of using dental bridges:
- You won’t need surgery.
- Jaw bone density isn’t an issue.
- You can easily replace a tooth that’s been missing for years.
- It’s less expensive.
However, the disadvantages of dental bridges include:
- They don’t replace your tooth root. Not replacing the tooth root causes jaw bone tissue to degenerate faster.
- Large parts of the teeth adjacent the gap have to be removed to place the bridge.
- The crowned teeth adjacent the gap can be more susceptible to decay.
- Bridges typically only last 8-15 years before needing to be replaced.
When it comes to dental implants, on the other hand, you’re facing an entirely new set of things to consider. Even though the option is better for most people, you might find that it won’t work for you. Price is certainly an important factor, but despite the higher price tag, dental implants can be seen as an investment that pays off long-term. Here are some advantages associated with dental implants:
- Dental implants usually last a lifetime without needing replacement.
- The implant post fuses to your jaw bone, slowing down bone degeneration.
- Your implant is just like a real tooth.
- Adjacent teeth aren’t affected by the implant.
- Dental implants don’t get cavities or decay-related problems typically associated with natural teeth.
But for all their advantages, dental implants also have a few disadvantages. These disadvantages include:
- Your jaw bone density has to be sufficient in order to support the implant post.
- The procedure takes considerably longer to complete, especially if you need bone grafting.
- You’re almost sure to need bone grafting if your tooth has been missing for longer.
- Complications can occur if your dentist isn’t experienced in placing implants.
- Getting implants requires minor surgery.
According to Dental Implant Cost Guide, the average cost of a dental implant in the US is about $4000, excluding bone grafts, tooth extractions and X-rays or CT scans. With other procedures included, the price can be anywhere from $5000 to $10,000. That’s a large difference, and it’s worthwhile to ask your dentist to perform tests to see whether you’re a good candidate for the procedure and give you an accurate cost estimate based your oral health.
The average cost of dental bridges is $1000-$4500, and will differ depending on what material the bridge is made of.