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.
What does getting a fixed bridge involve?
The full process depends on exactly which bridge you are having however typically process involves:
- An initial consultation with the dentist to decide on what type of bridge is best.
- 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.
- A temporary bridge will be made out of a hard wearing plastic.
- Two weeks go by whilst your permanent metal or porcelain dental bridge is manufactured.
- 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:
- A single dental crown.
- One end of a dental bridge. Typically you would have more than one implant to support the entire dental bridge.
- 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:
- The implant placement.
- The restorative phrase.
Dental implant placement procedure
Typically the procedure involves:
- An initial consultation with your dentist or oral surgeon.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- Initial impressions. Dental impressions will be taken and a temporary restoration made.
- The manufacturing stage. A dental laboratory will then take up to a couple of weeks to manufacture your restoration.
- 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.
- 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:
- They are less invasive on surrounding teeth and don’t require removal of possibly healthy tooth structure.
- 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:
- They are often cheaper than natural tooth supported bridges.
- They are often cheaper than dental implant supported bridges.
- 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.