Implants V. Bridges
The two most permanent methods for replacing missing teeth are bridges and implants. Bridges are three or more crowns cemented onto two natural teeth with one or more crowns in the middle to replace the missing teeth. The whole appliance, covering two teeth and replacing as many missing teeth as needed, is one permanent appliance. Implants replace a missing tooth by getting a post surgically placed into the bone of the area of the missing tooth, and then a crown is cemented to the post. No crowns on additional natural teeth are required for an implant, and implants are also permanent.
Both are good options to replace teeth and have many similarities and differences. The first step in the process of replacing a missing tooth with either a bridge or an implant is to have a healthy mouth before and after the tooth is replaced. Both bridges and implants need healthy bone levels and healthy gum tissue to be adequately fitted in to the mouth and to get maximum benefit to the patient. Both are custom made for each patient to fit and function as close to a real tooth as possible. Both require adequate space to replace the missing teeth, so leaving teeth missing for long spans of time may cause them to drift and may make replacing them with a bridge or implant more difficult.
Getting a bridge is a less invasive procedure than getting an implant, and in turn is less expensive. After an initial exam, bridges only require a first appointment for records and impressions to be taken and preparation of the two abutment teeth, then a second appointment for the final cementation of the bridge. Bridges can be made out of a ceramic tooth-colored material, gold, or a combination of both materials. Because the replacement crown is attached to neighboring teeth, keeping the bridge clean will take some extra time on the patient’s part—but is very important because it is still possible to get a cavity on the supporting teeth if the bridge is not kept clean. Getting a cavity on the abutment teeth may require removal of the entire bridge or replacement of the bridge.
Implants do a better job of functioning as a real tooth than a bridge. Implants require a few more appointments and are a bigger financial commitment, but can last a lifetime if they are taken care of properly. Cleaning around an implant is much easier than cleaning around a bridge because an implant is not attached to any surrounding teeth, so one would floss around an implant just like they would a natural tooth. Since implants are entirely artificial, they can’t get cavities, unlike bridges. Implants can still get Periodontal Disease so keeping the mouth healthy is extremely important because any bone loss can affect the fit and function of the implant in an undesirable way.
There are options out there for replacing missing teeth and your dentist would be more than happy to help you decide which option is best for you.