Do you have a single missing tooth or teeth? Luckily, these days there are different ways to close the space that missing teeth create, so you don’t have to walk around unable to eat or speak like a normal human being.
This post will dig into the difference between a dental bridge and implant, helping you understand how each treatment works and in which cases it is employed. Read about the process of getting either procedure for multiple teeth, check out the dental bridge pros and dental bridge cons, and learn why you may be tired after dental implants.
What is the Difference between Dental Bridge and Implant?
Both implants and dental bridges are false teeth that are employed to replace missing teeth. They differ in the way they function, the material they are made of, and the number of appointments needed. Even patient eligibility is different. Dental implants belong to cosmetic dentistry since they directly affect your smile.
Dental bridge for a missing tooth
A permanent dental bridge is a fixed prosthesis done in a two-visit appointment. It requires that the teeth on either side of the gap be healthy since you have to drill them to allow room for the crowns.
When it comes to replacing missing teeth with permanent bridges, the crowns are bonded to the teeth with dental cement. Everything is glued together and the piece is not removable.
People can’t tell you have a bridge because the colour and shape of the teeth are similar to your own. The material that goes into the making of the prosthesis could be anything from porcelain to zirconia, gold alloys, porcelain fused to metal, and even porcelain fused to zirconia.
Please note that a permanent dental bridge is different from partial dentures. Partial dentures act in the same manner, only they are removable.
Dental implant surgery for a missing tooth
In comparison, an implant is a standalone entity; a piece of titanium that is inserted inside the gums and into the bone that serves as a tooth root.
To be more specific, the implant is that part which is screwed into the bone. In addition, there is also an abutment and artificial crown that go on top. It is the dental crown that is visible, whereas the artificial tooth root is implanted into the gums.
Implants are made of titanium or zirconia, with titanium having the upper hand. Dentists favour the latter material because it is biocompatible which means it matches the human body better than other materials. This creates less risk for implant rejection.
When performed successfully, implant dentistry can turn into a permanent tooth replacement option, especially for replacing front teeth, the American Dental Association suggests.
Now, both dental bridges and dental implants require more than one appointment to get completed, with implants taking longer overall.
The Dental Bridge Procedure
The process of dental bridge placement starts with crown preparations. The two adjacent teeth surrounding the missing tooth or teeth have to be shaved down to around 1.5 mm to accommodate the “caps”. Sometimes that number is even higher. The teeth should be filed down in such a way as to achieve the correct parallelism. This would allow the bridge to fit perfectly.
Impressions of the teeth
The second stage of your dental bridge is to make impressions of the teeth, both top and bottom. This can be achieved in two ways: digitally (with a specialised scanner) or using an impression material that the patient bites into.
A mould also helps to create a temporary bridge that will keep the structure stable until you get your permanent fixture.
Cementation of the artificial teeth
During the final step of dental bridges, which is usually performed on the second appointment, the dentist cements the crowns on the surrounding teeth with permanent adhesive (special dental cement). Adjustments are made as necessary so that the tooth replacement blends well with the rest of the teeth.
What are the Advantages of Dental Bridges?
- Dental bridges do not slip around in the mouth unlike dentures; hence they are more secure
- Traditional bridges do not require oral surgery (doesn’t apply to implant-supported bridges)
- They are less expensive than implants
- These teeth replacements look quite natural
What are the Disadvantages of Dental Bridges?
- They aren’t as sturdy as implants
- They can’t fix bone loss
- Adjacent healthy teeth need to be filed down in order for a dental bridge to be fitted
Dental Implant Placement Procedure
There are two main types of implants: endosteal (located within the bone) and subperiosteal (on the bone). The terms refer to the position of the titanium post in the gums. Endosteal implants are more common.
However, if there is not enough bone structure to support the prosthesis, a subperiosteal implant is preferred by dental professionals. Instead of screwing them into the bone, these implants are attached onto it. The dental implant process is laborious and time-consuming since it involves oral surgery.
Assessment of dental health
On the first appointment, the dentist evaluates the gums, teeth, and bone to determine whether the patient has enough healthy bone tissue which would support the implant. If there is not enough jawbone, a bone graft is much needed in order for the procedure to be successful.
If the patient has periodontal disease (gum disease) or other poor dental hygiene issues, they have to be addressed in advance. Once the preparation is over, the surgeon will make an opening in the gum, right in the gap that the missing tooth left.
They will drill holes into the bone (for endosteal implant) or the implant post will be secured onto the bone (for subperiosteal implant). The gum tissue will be stitched together and you will be ushered to go back home. At this point, multiple implants can be fitted in.
Healing time, osseointegration
It will take between two and six months for the bone tissue to grow around the implant post - a process called osseointegration. This will secure the prosthesis in place making sure it doesn’t slip around or detach from the bone as you eat. It is going to be the root of your new tooth.
When osseointegration is complete, the oral surgeon will add the abutment. This is the middle part of the prosthesis that serves as a connector between the implant post and the implant crown.
In order to get this done, the specialist will have to open the gums again, removing the healing cap that was placed over the implant to facilitate healing. The abutment is then attached to the implant post and more time is needed until the tissue can heal, e.g. several weeks or so.
Impressions and crown placement
The next step is to place the crown. You can choose between a fixed tooth and a removable one. Most people choose the former option but that will be a decision you and your dentist will make together.
Impressions of your mouth will be taken so that the crown is fabricated to fit your mouth perfectly. The colour of the material will match your natural teeth. In the end, no one will be able to tell you have a tooth replacement.
As you have the dental crown placed, this marks the end of your implant treatment. You can now eat and drink normally.
Dental Implant Pros
- By closing the empty spaces in the mouth, implants can keep the shape of the face intact and prevent facial sagging
- Bone loss is prevented and bone growth stimulated
- Dental implants are long-lasting; ideally, they will last you a lifetime
- Dental implants act like real teeth, allowing you to live a normal life
- They do not slip around
- No adjacent teeth need to be damaged in order to use a dental implant; the other teeth remain intact
- Dental implants are easy to take care of (the same way as your normal teeth) and you can eat what you want (no restrictions imposed)
Dental Implant Cons
- Dental implants are costly
- They require surgery and take months to complete
- Multiple appointments are needed
- Dental implants are not suitable for everyone
- There is a risk of complications like jaw fractures and infection
- There is a 10% risk of dental implant failure
- The procedure should not be carried out unless bone growth is complete; therefore it is not recommended for adolescents or younger patients
Comparison of Treatment Costs
The cost of dental implants in Singapore is in the realm of $4,000 and $6,000 for a normal case. A single implant might cost $2,000, exclusive of CT scans and consultation fees. Part of the bill might be covered by MediSave as of 2019. There is a limit on the funds you can claim from dental insurance. In most cases, it amounts to $1,250.
As for dental bridges, the price varies from $750 to $1,400 per tooth. The more missing teeth you have, the more you will pay. Dental bridges are not covered by dental insurance.
What Lasts Longer: Bridge or Implant?
Without the shadow of a doubt, dental implants are more durable than bridges. The former have a lifespan of over 25 years, whereas the latter are expected to last about 15 years.
Titanium is a material that can successfully withstand tooth decay and gum problems. It’s incredibly resistant, unlike natural teeth.
Dental Implants versus Bridges: FAQ
Permanent Dental Bridge vs Implant
The decision on whether to get dental implants or a dental bridge should not be taken single-handedly. You need to get an evaluation by a dental professional to see how many teeth need to be replaced and what state the remaining teeth are currently in.
Both treatments have their benefits. While dental implants do not affect healthy teeth, bridges tend to damage the surrounding teeth. At the same time, implants require surgery. Neither treatment should be carried out if the patient has existing cavities or periodontal disease (gum disease). Any oral health issues need to be fixed prior to tackling the lost tooth.
A dental bridge is a wiser idea if you are missing more than one consecutive tooth. Dental implants are great for one missing tooth.
No matter if you plan to get a dental implant or a bridge, you should make it a point to visit your dentist regularly. This way you will protect your natural teeth from disease. Good oral health can save you from the need to get a fake tooth with a dental implant or bridge in the first place.