If you have lost a tooth, particularly a front or prominent tooth, you will know it can have an impact on your everyday life and self-esteem. Eating becomes problematic and you may avoid smiling or socialising.
Regardless of the aesthetic and psychological reasons, missing teeth should be replaced as a gap causes other problems. Adjacent teeth can drift into the opening, or teeth in the opposing jaw can grow into the gap which can have detrimental consequences to your occlusion or ‘bite’, causing further issues. Over time missing teeth also cause bone resorption and can give people a sunken face appearance.
So now you have made the decision to replace the tooth, which option suits you best for replacement of the missing tooth?
Many people do not like the idea of a removable partial denture and wish to have a fixed replacement in the form of a bridge or a dental implant. The following is information to consider when making your decision.
What is a Dental Bridge?
A bridge is literally a bridge between one or more missing teeth. There are three types of bridge: a conventional bridge, cantilever bridge or Maryland or ‘bonded bridge.
A conventional bridge is made of two crowns on either side of the gap, the ‘abutment teeth’, with a false tooth in the gap position which is known as a ‘pontic’. This is usually the preferred method as it is stronger than the other two options. It is usually used as a long term solution to missing teeth.
A Maryland bridge, also known as a resin bonded bridge, is bonded to the adjacent teeth with ‘wings’ on the back of adjacent teeth and is a relatively quick solution with no or little preparation of adjacent teeth required but may not last as long. Likewise, a cantilever bridge, may be used when there is only one abutment tooth as it is fixed one side only but is not used as often. Both Maryland and cantilever bridge are often (but not necessarily) used as temporary restoration options.
A conventional bridge does have several advantages:
- Looks natural
- Time saving: it requires only two dental visits
- It is more cost effective and less expensive than dental implants
- Can last 10-15 years with good oral hygiene
- Fixed and stable
- Shorter recovery time compared to implants
However one should also consider the disadvantages:
- As the adjacent teeth must be filed down and prepared to be abutment teeth, it is destructive on otherwise healthy teeth.
- Once teeth are prepared for a bridge, there is no going back: these teeth will always need a bridge.
- Abutment teeth need to be healthy and not have large restorations, decay or be mobile.
- Possibility of nerve damage. When a tooth is prepared for a crown or bridge, there is a chance that the tooth can lose vitality (the nerve dies). In this instance the tooth will require root canal treatment in future.
- A bridge is more difficult to clean as it is prone to collecting plaque. Since the fake tooth is rigidly joined to adjacent teeth it is not possible to floss in the usual manner and great care must be taken to keep the underside of the bridge clean.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are titanium roots and porcelain crowns that serve as replacement for missing teeth. Due to the biocompatible properties of titanium, when implants are placed in the upper or lower jaw, they bond with the bone, serving as an anchor for the replacement tooth. Decades of research has proven that dental implants are the longest lasting, most natural looking and best functioning substitute for natural teeth. With a lifetime success rate of over 95%, they have the highest rate of any tooth replacement option. The benefit of implants is that it replaces a tooth without the need to grind down adjacent teeth as they are anchored with the implant and are free standing.
Advantages of implants:
- Grinding neighbouring teeth is not necessary so healthy tooth substance is preserved
- Look and feel like natural teeth
- Eat what you want
- Long term results: with proper care, they can last a lifetime
- Stimulates jaw bone: no bone resorption
- Look younger
- Easier to clean: implants mimic natural teeth and need to be cared for in much the same way as your original teeth do, with brush and floss and dental hygiene visits twice a year
Disadvantages of implants:
- More costly than bridge work
- More invasive than bridge work – surgery is required
- More time consuming
- May require additional procedure such as bone grafting if you do not have sufficient bone for an implant to be placed
Dental Bridge versus Dental Implant
While this article covers a comprehensive list of pros and cons for each option, it is almost impossible for patients to compare dental bridge versus dental implant without getting a professional opinion because everyone’s case is different.
The first step is to consult with a prosthodontist/implant dentist. They will look at your individual circumstances and look at 3D imaging to see what bone you have available and which option may suit your best needs. They can tailor a treatment plan so you know your costs and procedures up front and you can then check with your health insurance what your rebates will be. Your life can be transformed when you are once again able to laugh, eat and smile with confidence.
You can book a consultation with our clinicians today by calling (02) 9415 2777 or submit an enquiry online.