What am I being offered? Dental Bridges vs Dental Implants

Are you missing a tooth and have been offered different treatment options?

What are Dental Implants?

Dental implants replace a missing tooth from above and below the gum line. It is essentially a complete replacement tooth that utilises a small titanium post that is surgically placed into the jawbone. The crown (the actual replacement tooth) attaches to the post and is custom-made to match the shape, size, and colour of your natural teeth. They usually don’t require any modification to the surrounding teeth as they are made to work around your existing teeth and jaw structure.

The benefits of dental implants:

  • Last for many years with proper care
  • Function and look like your natural tooth
  • No need to modify surrounding teeth

They are a popular option for tooth replacement due to how well they can match the natural look of our teeth – to the point where it is hard to even tell that the tooth is artificial. Dental implants also function just like the natural tooth that was there before. You are still able to eat, speak, brush, and floss them as normal.

Dental implants usually take longer to complete than dental bridges. While both are custom-made, there is more preparation time required for dental implants. While it’s possible to complete a dental implant fitting in one day, it’s ideal if the implant post and jawbone fuse together over three to six months. Therefore, more appointments and oral surgery are required for implants. Known as osseointegration, a temporary restoration can be worn while the jaw heals. 

Some people need bone grafting or sinus augmentation to support an implant, which can add to the time and cost involved.   

What are Dental Bridges?

Dental bridges do as the phrase suggests – they look to replace the actual missing tooth by utilising the teeth on either side of the area where the tooth is missing. They essentially ‘bridge the gap’ between the teeth. The artificial tooth is held firmly in place by a dental crown either side on the teeth either side of the missing tooth.

The benefits of dental bridges include:

  • Improved smile
  • Function
  • Maintain facial height
  • Holds remaining natural teeth
  • Holds facial shape

In terms of cost, a dental bridge can be less expensive than a full dental implant. Also, depending on your individual circumstances, it may be done in fewer visits than an implant. They are a suitable treatment option where one or two teeth are missing and like implants, they help restore normal tooth function such as chewing.

Compared with dental implants, dental bridges have a few limitations. Firstly, as they do not have a post secured in the jawbone, they are not as strong. However, they are still strong enough for normal tooth function. The second limitation is that since the bridge is not as custom as an implant in terms of its fitting and shape, some adjustment to your biting and chewing initially will occur until you naturally adjust to the dental bridge.

The type of bridge used will depend on the missing tooth/teeth and where the bridge is required.  

Traditional Bridge – A crown fits over the two natural teeth on either side of the missing tooth with a pontic (false tooth) in the middle of the two crowns. Traditional bridges are usually made from metal with porcelain or ceramic.

Maryland Bridge – A Maryland Bridge uses a metal or porcelain wing from one side of the bridge to bond to existing teeth. Maryland bridges are made from a combination of metal and porcelain or resin. These bridges mean that less of the tooth structure needs to be removed.

The life of a dental bridge is between 5 and 15 years, so it Is not considered a permanent fix. Bridges need replacing because the cement fails over time or there is decay or other problem with one of the natural teeth under the crown. Therefore, many people today choose a dental implant over a bridge after losing a tooth. Plus, a dental implant, in most instances, will last longer than a bridge. 

But there are people who choose a bridge over an implant. They may want to replace their existing bridge, may not have the budget for an implant, or aren’t suitable to undergo the surgery required for an implant.     

A temporary bridge is often fitted while patients wait for their long-term bridge or an implant to be made. 

A partial denture is like a bridge, but it is removable, and many people do not like the idea of “taking their teeth out” to clean or to sleep. 

Table Comparison: Dental Implants vs Dental Bridges

FeatureDental ImplantsDental Bridges
PurposeReplace missing teethReplace missing teeth
PlacementFitted directly into jawboneFitted on top of existing teeth
LongevityUp to a lifetimeUp to 15 years
MaintenanceRegular cleaning and dental check-upsRegular cleaning and dental check-ups
ProcedureSurgery followed by healing and recoveryPreparation and placement
CostTypically more expensiveTypically less expensive
ImpactDoes not affect adjacent teethRequires some reduction of adjacent teeth for placement
ComfortFeels like a natural toothCan feel unnatural initially
AppearanceClosely resembles a natural toothCan have a less natural appearance

What Treatment Option is Right for Me?

The treatment options – a dental implant or a dental bridge – should be presented by your prosthodontist. They should reflect your specific needs and circumstances, whether that’s because you’re missing a single tooth or many teeth. There is no hard and fast rule; however, a single missing tooth may be better served by a dental bridge versus a complete reconstruction where multiple teeth are missing, where dental implants are more suitable.

If you’re considering any sort of treatment to address a missing tooth, speak to a prosthodontist who is a dental specialist in that area.

Your prosthodontist will be able to evaluate and discuss your options with you, taking into account factors such as cost, durability, and function.

Need a Second Opinion?

Dental implants and dental bridges are both great options for replacing missing teeth. Each has its pros and cons; yet, the best solution will depend on your specific needs and circumstances.

Implants versus bridges is a common question we get asked. Some people who are already discussing the option with their dentist may want to consider options other than an implant to address a missing tooth.

If you’re weighing up your options – dental implants versus a dental bridge – make an appointment today to talk to one of our experienced prosthodontists for their opinion.

A second opinion often gives you confidence that you’re making the right decision. If both opinions are similar in treatment and cost, you can have the treatment done with the comfort of knowing two specialists have a similar opinion.

If the opinions are different, it allows you to do more research and ask more questions so you can then make an informed decision on which provider you’ll use.