Dental bridges vs. dental implants

Trinity blog title

There is very often talk at our dental practice in Devon around the pros and cons of dental bridges versus dental implants, in this blog post we seek to answer some of the most common questions that people ask about this popular topic when seeking to replace missing teeth

What do bridges and implants mean?

Bridges and implants are both ways to replace missing teeth. However they have a slightly different approach to doing this.

Bridges effectively bridge the gap where the tooth is missing, bridges can either be attached to existing teeth or to dental implants.

Dental implants effectively replace the root of a natural tooth where the tooth has been lost. Dental implants within themselves don’t replace a missing tooth, they simply support the final restoration which can be either a dental crown (to replace a single tooth), a dental implant supported bridge (to replace multiple missing teeth) or an implant supported removable denture (to replace all missing teeth).

What is a dental bridge?

A dental bridge will classically be attached to your remaining teeth. The teeth either side of the gap will be prepared (trimmed down) in order to allow the new false tooth or false teeth to be attached to them.

Dental bridges come in a variety of formats:

  • The Maryland bridge. This requires far less preparation of the adjacent teeth as it is simply a wing which supports the new false tooth.
  • A cantilever bridge. This can be used to suspend a tooth off of a single tooth.
  • Traditional bridges. This is where the teeth either side of the gap are prepared.

The different types of dental bridge

What does getting a fixed bridge involve?

The full process depends on exactly which bridge you are having however typically process involves:

  1. An initial consultation with the dentist to decide on what type of bridge is best.
  2. The preparation appointment. You will be given a local anaesthetic to ensure the area is completely numb so that the treatment is comfortable and pain-free.
  3. A temporary bridge will be made out of a hard wearing plastic.
  4. Two weeks go by whilst your permanent metal or porcelain dental bridge is manufactured.
  5. The fitting appointment. You will be given a local anaesthetic again so that the plastic temporary can be removed comfortably. The permanent bridge will then be tried in to ensure you are happy. The bridge is then permanently fitted using a special dental bonding material.

What is a dental implant?

A dental implant basically replaces the root of a natural tooth. Implants are often placed into the empty tooth socket after a tooth is removed. Bone grafting is sometimes undertaken by your dentist or surgeon if there is not enough bone to anchor the implant adequately.

A dental implant is then used to support:

  1. A single dental crown.
  2. One end of a dental bridge. Typically you would have more than one implant to support the entire dental bridge.
  3. A denture. Typically you would have up to 6 dental implants to support a full denture.

In and of themselves dental implants do not replace the missing tooth, it is the type of restoration on top of the implant which replaces your missing tooth or teeth.

What does getting a dental implant involve?

Dental implant treatments are usually split into two:

  1. The implant placement.
  2. The restorative phrase.

Dental implant placement procedure

Typically the procedure involves:

  1. An initial consultation with your dentist or oral surgeon.
  2. A planning phase in conjunction with a dental laboratory, typically taking 2-3 weeks and 2-3 appointments at the dental practice. At this phase it will be worked out how many implant you need and the type of restoration that will be fitted afterwards.
  3. Dental implant placement itself. This is usually a fairly quick procedure and is often undertaken with local anaesthetic only. If you require sedation this can also often be arranged.
  4. The healing phase. Typically 3-6 months. This allows the dental implant to integrate fully into the surrounding bone.

Dental implant restoration procedure

After the implant has fully integrated and the healing phase is complete the restorative phase can begin. This is where you have your bridge or dentures fitted.

The procedure normally involves:

  1. Discussion about what the final restoration should look like, colour, shape, arrangement of teeth etc. The restoration can be made to look like your natural teeth or you may to look completely different, the choice is usually yours.
  2. Initial impressions. Dental impressions will be taken and a temporary restoration made.
  3. The manufacturing stage. A dental laboratory will then take up to a couple of weeks to manufacture your restoration.
  4. Try in stage. If your final restoration is a denture then there will be a try in stage, This is to ensure you are happy with the look and feel of the denture prior to final processing. Sometimes are trying stage is also used with a dental bridge to verify that everything is okay prior to finishing.
  5. The fitting stage. This is where your final restoration is fitted.

Which is better, dental implants or bridging?

There really isn’t a definitive answer as to which is better, it entirely depends on outcomes you wish to achieve.

However, dental implants are usually preferred for the following reasons:

  1. They are less invasive on surrounding teeth and don’t require removal of possibly healthy tooth structure.
  2. Because they are fitted into the empty tooth socket they support the surrounding bone and can often prevent bone resorption which can make them look better in the long run.

Why would someone choose dentures over bridges or implants?

Very often patients will prefer a dental bridge, either supported by natural teeth or implants over a denture. This is because dentures are removable and many people prefer not to remove their teeth and have them permanently fitted.

However, dentures come with the following advantages:

  1. They are often cheaper than natural tooth supported bridges.
  2. They are often cheaper than dental implant supported bridges.
  3. In some instances they are used to support the surrounding gum. You may find that you have excessive bone loss and that your gums have receded, if this is the case dentures can be used as they give lots of support to the gum. This can help to support your facial shape and remove lines and wrinkles around your mouth.


We hope you have found the discussion between dental implants, bridges and dentures useful. The thing to bear in mind is that there is no single generic best alternative, there is only the alternative that is best for YOU and so you should discuss all of your options with your dentist before making a decision.

Ways to replace missing teeth

missing teethIt is unfortunately quite common for people to have missing teeth, many times nothing is done and people live quite happily with the gap, in this blog post we will look at some of the reasons why you may want to replace missing teeth and if you so choose, what are your best options?

We’ve written in a previous blog post that when you have a missing tooth the opposing teeth can begin to drift and the adjacent teeth can begin to tip, this is probably the biggest reason to replace missing teeth, in order to protect your surrounding teeth and bite.

Options to replace missing teeth.

You basically have three options to replace your missing teeth.

  • Dentures
  • Dental bridges
  • Dental implants

let’s look at each of these in turn.

Dental bridges

dental bridgeA dental bridge essentially uses the teeth either side of the gap as a support to replace the missing tooth in the middle. One of the biggest disadvantages is that there is often a requirement to remove healthy tooth structure on either side of the gap in order to accept this new support. The support is called an abutment in technical terms and often takes the form of a new crown.

The tooth which is replaced (called a Pontic in technical terms) is then attached to the abutments either side. You will generally find that to replace a single missing tooth that both teeth, on either side of the gap, are involved in this bridging process. This means that there will be a three tooth bridge required in order to replace a single missing tooth.

The biggest disadvantage in this process is that possibly healthy teeth on either side of the gap may need to have healthy tooth tissue removed.


claspModern dentures can be highly asthetic so that no one would know that you are wearing them, the gum and acrylic teeth can be made to look highly lifelike and natural, mimicking a natural smile almost exactly. One of the biggest disadvantages of dentures is the fact that they are removable. Many people dislike the idea of removing their teeth at night.

Small dentures can be made to replace a couple of missing teeth, in this case a clasp will be used around the teeth either side to hold the denture in place. These clasps can we made in one of three different materials:

  • Gold. A more expensive option but an excellent material to use in the oral environment as it is inert and has good pliability.
  • Stainless steel. A cheaper alternative and with the similar properties to Gold
  • Acetyl resin. These are tooth coloured clasps, they often very expensive to make as the manufacturing process is relatively long and complex, they do however provide an extremely aesthetic option to retained dentures.

Dental implants.

implant_schemaA dental implant is often your dentist’s preferred option. When a dental implant is placed it will support the surrounding bone, this prevents the bone collapsing into the gap where the tooth was removed (remember to read our previous blog post on the subject). This means that bone is retained rather than lost after the extraction. It then but also means that the adjacent teeth do not have to be touched in order to take the abutment, as is common with dental bridges.

This means that dental implants can often be the best biological, functional and aesthetic way to replace missing teeth.

One disadvantage with dental implants is the immediate cost, there is the cost of providing the implant itself (this is a precision made dental appliance made to tolerances of thousandths of a millimetre), a dental implant surgeon to place the implant itself and then the final dental crown which is fitted on top of the dental implant.

However, an extremely important point to bear in mind is that the dental implant will typically last longer than any of the other restorations. As your teeth and gums change shape you will be required to have a new denture overtime, with a dental bridge, the gum underneath the pontic (the new tooth) can change shape as it is not supported, as this happensgaps appear underneath this pontic meaning it needs to be replaced.

Because dental bridges need three teeth to replace one single missing tooth, this can also be more expensive than you might imagine.

For this reason dental implants are often considered the best option for you.

How do I know which option is best for me?

This is a great question…

Minimum fuss.

If you want to have the simplest replacement of a missing tooth with the minimum number of appointments then a denture may be the best option. You do however have to consider the disadvantag that it is removable and will need replacing overtime.

Next on this list would be a dental bridge. You will need a couple of appointments at the dentist but once the bridge is fitted you can forget about it, apart from cleaning regularly of course, although again you do need to remember that it may need replacing a few years down the line.

Minimum cost.

Dentures would be the minimum cost way to replace missing teeth, apart from doing nothing at all. When it comes to dental implants and dental bridges it can often be a very close call. In the short term a dental bridge may be slightly cheaper but in the long-term, taking into account that a bridge may need to be replaced sooner than a dental implant, an implant can be the longest serving option.

It’s also worth thinking about what your budget could be when you first go to the dentist. Remember, many dental practices offer payment plans, often at 0% so you will not always be expected to pay the full amount upfront. Please ensure you discuss this with your dentist if you think a payment plan could work for you.

Trinity Dental Centre around local dental practice in Barnstaple, North Devon offering the local people dental health advice and treatments to help replace missing teeth as well as stay dentally fit and healthy for life.

Request your appointment online today.


Why replace missing teeth? #3 Might Surprise You!

We are often asked about the different ways to replace missing teeth, so we thought it would be helpful to the people of the North Devon and the local Barnstaple areas if we took some time to explain this in our blog.

We are therefore going to take an in-depth look at the reasons you might want to replace missing teeth (which may include some reasons you’ve never heard of before!), we will also take a brief look at the various ways of replacing missing teeth and what the advantages are with each method. (More to come on this in more detail in a future blog post).

Why replace missing teeth?

1. Because gaps don’t look great

It sounds obvious, but it’s rather true. Our smile is extremely important to the look of our face, take a look at these celebrities with their teeth deleted from the photographs… Your smile is extremely important and having missing teeth can change the way it looks completely.Replace missing teeth

2. Because other teeth can move around!

Teeth moving after extractionYour teeth are all in fine balance with one another. Teeth rest in what is known as the ‘neutral zone’. This neutral zone is created by the teeth either side, the opposing teeth on the opposite jaw and your tongue and cheek. All of these put mild pressure on the tooth, all in balance with one another, all keeping your teeth in pretty much the same place.

If this balance and harmony is disturbed, for example by removing a tooth, then the teeth either side will have a tendency to tip into the gap and drift. Your opposing teeth will also have a tendency to over erupt in to the gap.

This moving of teeth can have a cosmetic impact. Take a look at the image above and notice that the premolar that has moved has changed the gum line on the upper jaw. This sensitive gum line architecture will affect how your smile looks if it is compromised.

Moving teeth around like this can also affect the way your bite works

3. Because your jaw joint can be affected

This is a direct consequence of the teeth moving as described in #2. If your opposing teeth drift then you may have to move your jaw in a slightly different way to ensure that the teeth don’t interfere with each other when you bite.

This can be extremely subtle and you may not even notice that your natural muscles have changed the way they work slightly. One consequence of this can be that some muscles are overworked,. Because the muscles of your head and neck are all connected. this can lead to headaches and/or neck pain.

A rather surprising consequence of having a single tooth removed!

4. Because you can prevent additional bone loss

Bone lossWhen a tooth is removed, it leaves a socket or a hole. New bone doesn’t fill up this hole, rather, what happens is that the surrounding bone collapses in to fill up the gap. This collapsing means you lose over all bone quantity in this area.

This can have the impact of changing the line of your gum and also can compromise the placement of a dental implant at a later date if you so decide due to a possible lack of adequate bone.

One way to prevent this bone loss is to have a dental implant placed, the dental implant then fills the gap where the tooth is removed and prevents the adjacent bone from collapsing into the space.

Ways to replace missing teeth.

The primary focus of this blog post is to answer your questions about why you should replace missing teeth, we will take a much more in-depth look at the various options in our next blog post., however, here is a brief summary.


Dentures are often unpopular due to the fact that they are removable. Modern dentures however can often be extremely stable, beautiful and are often a perfectly acceptable way to replace missing teeth.

Dental bridges.

Dental bridges have been around for many years now and form a permanent solution to replacing missing teeth. They will attach to the adjacent teeth, which form an abutment off of which the false tooth will be suspended.

Dental implants.

Dental implants are the most modern solution for replacing missing teeth. They generally offer the most aesthetic option as they can look as though they grow out of the gum like a natural tooth. Because they also support the surrounding bone and prevent bone loss they may also be considered the most healthy option.

Further questions about replacing missing teeth?

To help with all of your questions we have created a free guide, in it we talk about the various options to replace missing teeth, the procedures, the costs and what you can expect.

The guide is completely free and can be downloaded by completing the form below.

replacing missing teeth

Should you require any further information about replacing missing teeth in the Barnstaple, North Devon area then please visit our website or request an appointment here.