If you’ve recently had teeth extracted, you may be wondering about your options going forward. No one really wants gaps in their smile, and missing teeth can cause a whole host of problems. A gap can make it more difficult to eat. It can lead to bone loss in the jaw, and it can weaken the position of the surrounding teeth. Deciding on a method of replacement for the missing tooth is in your best interest. Should you have dental implants or bridges?
Your dentist may have already discussed options with you, but the differences between dental implants and dental bridges aren’t immediately obvious if they were unable to discuss it in depth. To make your decision easier, let’s look at how dental implants work in comparison to dental bridges and what the pros and cons of each approach are.
Generally speaking, dental implants are a better long-term solution for patients missing teeth. They are implanted directly into the jawbone and do not rely on surrounding teeth for support, allowing them to stand alone and provide added support.
Unfortunately, dental implants can also be costly, especially if you have several teeth that need to be replaced. You can conservatively expect to pay between $3,000 and $4,500 per implant. Comparatively few dental insurance plans will cover full dental implants, so this option can be prohibitively expensive for some patients.
Length of Procedure:
A dental implant requires at least three separate procedures, not including initial examinations and x-rays. During the first procedure, your oral surgeon will place the root of the dental implant into your jawbone. If you are lucky, then they will be able to place the abutment in the same visit.
After the root of the implant has been placed, you will have to wait for the jawbone to completely heal around the implant, resulting in osseointegration. This process can take several months, longer for older patients and those who smoke. Once you are healed, your dentist will take impressions of your mouth to create a custom replacement tooth. During the final procedural visit, your dentist will place the custom tooth.
Due to the osseointegration process, placing a dental implant can actually promote healthy bone growth in the jaw. However, you should keep in mind that a bone graft may be required if you’ve already experienced significant bone loss at the location of the missing tooth.
One of the biggest advantages of a dental implant is that it is free-standing. There are no attachments to the surrounding teeth, preventing the implant from putting them under additional strain. As a result, you are less likely to lose the surrounding teeth as long as you maintain a regular dental hygiene routine.
A dental bridge uses surrounding teeth to support a false tooth, also referred to as a “pontic,” in the place of a missing tooth. Dental bridges are a highly effective way of filling a gap, making daily activities easier. However, they do not address bone loss and can actually weaken the teeth supporting them in the long-term.
The cost of the most basic dental bridge, which consists of one pontic attached to two natural teeth, usually costs between $1,500 and $2,000. In some cases, your dental insurance may pay up to 50% of the cost of a dental bridge, making it a significantly more affordable option for the average person.
Length of Procedure:
Unlike dental implants, having a dental bridge placed in your mouth doesn’t necessarily require months of waiting. However, you will still have to make at least two appointments.
Step by Step
During the first appointment, your dentist will prepare your supporting teeth for crowns if they deem it necessary. They will also take impressions of your mouth to create custom pontic(s) that will fit as naturally as possible.
Your second appointment will consist of the bridge being placed and adjusted to your mouth. If it feels awkward or uncomfortable, you can always go back for additional fitting.
Unfortunately, dental bridges will not stimulate jaw bone growth in the jaw.
The pontic is physically attached to your natural teeth on either side. Crowns can increase their strength, but there is the chance that the strain being exerted by the bridge on the natural teeth could damage or weaken them over time.
Depending on your individual case, your dentist may have additional suggestions regarding your decision to have an implant or bridge. Be open with your dentist at Valley Alder regarding any concerns you may have to make the best decision for you.