Dental technology has advanced significantly in the last 30 years. Patients with missing teeth now have several great options available. Dental bridges are the more established method of filling the gaps in your smile. However, the availability and popularity of dental implants has increased in recent years.
But what are the major differences between a dental bridge and a dental implant? Which treatment option is right for you? Most dentists including Dr. James P. Furgurson of Chapel Hill Family & Cosmetic Dentistry in Chapel Hill, NC prefer implants due to their strength, longevity and ease of care. However, numerous factors need to be considered, including if your tooth loss is recent or happened years ago.
Practical Reasons for Both
In the past, a bridge was really the only option for replacing a missing tooth or teeth besides dentures. A bridge involves more than just the missing tooth. The adjacent teeth on either side of the gap must be altered by removing most of the outer layer of enamel in order to place the bridge, attaching it to crowns that will be fitted onto these teeth. With dental implants, Dr. Furgurson embeds the replacement tooth directly into the jawbone resulting in a tooth that is stronger and permanent.
Nonetheless, a dental bridge may be your best option if the neighboring teeth have large fillings and need crowns or caps in the future. If the tooth or teeth were lost a long time ago, the gum and bone tissues will have receded and additional surgeries beyond the implant- such as bone grafts- will be required before placement can occur. The advantages and disadvantages to both procedures can ultimately be discussed with Dr. Furgurson.
Your Oral Care Routine
Oral hygiene is simpler with a dental implant than with a bridge. This is because dental bridges are cemented in the mouth, and are composed of at least three crowns connected together to fill the space of the missing tooth. The nature of this design creates challenges when brushing and flossing, so it is important to be meticulous when cleaning.
Flossing, in particular, will require an additional step to thread the floss under the false tooth to prevent gum disease from setting in. In contrast, implants replace teeth individually without affecting other teeth. You can brush and floss around an implant as you would your natural tooth, making oral care much easier and more effective.
Dental implants are more durable than bridges, providing a restoration that can last a lifetime. The implant screw that serves as the root of the prosthetic is a metal cylinder that is normally made from titanium or zirconia and this material is resistant to decay and naturally fuses with your jawbone. If a dental implant is properly cared for, the implant portion will last a lifetime with only the crown (the false tooth mounted on top) needing to be replaced every 15-20 years due to normal wear and tear. However, they can last longer with proper care.
On the other hand, the average life of a dental bridge is approximately 10 years and the entire bridge will need to be replaced. Also, because a portion of your natural tooth remains beneath it, the remaining tooth structures continue to be susceptible to decay and gum disease.
The cost of a dental bridge is less expensive initially, but it will need to be replaced at some point in the near future. Implants – from preparation to final placement – are more expensive, but can actually save you money over time as they will only need their crowns replaced occasionally. Fortunately, most dental insurance providers now pay for a portion of or all of the steps involved in the implant process.
Implant treatment is also generally more flexible, allowing patients more time to budget the cost of the full treatment in increments. For example, a bone graft is sometimes needed to reinforce the jawbone to support an implant. This graft typically has to heal for several months before an implant can be done. This wait time allows the patient more time to save for the next phase of the process.
Dental Implants in Chapel Hill, NC
Both options are much more pleasant than being afraid to smile because you are self-conscious about smiling or having difficulty chewing due to your missing teeth. Although bridges are an older procedure, dental implants have become more popular over the years, and in most cases are the preferred method of replacing missing teeth due to their durability and ease of care.
If you are considering dental implants, you need to see the best implant dentist possible. Dr. Furgurson or his associate Dr. Nathan O. White can help you meet your dental goals with whichever dental procedure you decide is right for you. For a consultation with a Chapel Hill Family & Cosmetic Dentistry about dental implants or any other dental concern, please call 919.205.9308 or schedule a consultation online today!