Before we get into the finer details let’s start at the beginning…
Firstly what is a tooth bridge?
Otherwise known as a dental bridge it’s a fixed dental restoration used to replace one or more missing teeth. It does so by joining the artificial ‘bridging’ tooth or teeth (the teeth that span the gap) to the adjacent teeth by means of a framework. This bridge framework sits over the supporting teeth which are then capped by a crown.
So what is a tooth implant and how does it differ?
A dental implant is a free-standing restoration which utilises a titanium screw. That screw is anchored or ‘implanted’ directly into the gap and secured down into the jawbone. After a short period of time, the surrounding bone tissue merges with the titanium implant to create an incredibly strong structure. This structure can then be utilised to hold the artificial tooth or crown.
From an aesthetic standpoint both the conventional dental bridge and tooth implant have the ability to restore a full smile. However, that really is as far as the similarities go. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the two options in greater detail.
Surgery vs non-surgical processes
One of the main differences between a tooth implant and a conventional bridge is that one involves – in some cases – a relatively complex surgical procedure and the other doesn’t. With a dental bridge, a patient can expect to receive a fully functioning dental bridge using non-surgical placement methods in just 2 visits totalling no more than 2-3 hours of work.
On the contrary, anyone being fitted with a tooth implant will require surgical treatment. While time spent chairside may be limited by utilising state-of-the-art computer-guided methods, there is a need for patients to undergo some form of operation. That said, the latest technology, combined with modern gentle dentistry means that patients are able to recover quicker and the procedure itself is pain-free. In addition, using the latest techniques, an implant can be fitted in as little as 15-20 minutes, so they can in many cases be no more time consuming than when being fitted a dental bridge.
Supported vs self-supporting
Perhaps the main difference between a dental implant and a tooth bridge is that conventional bridges need the help and support of nearby healthy teeth to hold the bridging tooth in position. This means several things…
Firstly, as each adjacent supporting tooth needs to be reshaped to take the bridging framework, it can compromise what should in effect be a normal healthy tooth. Secondly, it also means that excess force is being placed on the supporting teeth which may cause problems later on down then line.
Initially cheaper vs long-term savings
There’s no getting away from the fact that initially, a dental bridge is far cheaper than the equivalent dental implant. A conventional bridge can be fitted for around $1200 give or take, whereas an implant-based restoration can easily cost 2-4 times that amount. But does that make a dental bridge a viable option?
If it was based on initial costs alone, then the answer would be yes! However, when you consider than once an implant is fitted, it can – if cared for correctly- last several decades and more, then you have to weigh up the long-term savings you might make. Especially when you consider that a dental bridge will need replacing at least once during that time.
Hopefully this has given you some solid information when it comes to a tooth implant vs bridge debate and gives some clarity when you’re considering the best way to replace a missing tooth.