Which is better?
A dental bridge or implant are two options your dentist may suggest to you to replace a missing tooth, and each option has its advantages. Before you make a decision, read on to learn the differences between the two and discover which one may be best for you.
Dental bridges and implants are constructed differently. A bridge is made of a false tooth suspended between two crowns that the dentist cements onto prepared natural teeth on either side. An implant is a false tooth that's attached to a titanium post the periodontist or oral surgeon has inserted in the jaw bone. The false teeth and crowns in bridges and the false teeth in implants are matched to the color of the surrounding teeth, but, even so, a bridge may be slightly more noticeable. Unlike an implant, the false tooth of a bridge isn't embedded in the gum.
A dental implant is basically an artificial tooth root (typically made from titanium) that is anchored in place of a missing tooth. A temporary protective cover screw is placed on the implant while it fuses with the jawbone (a process called osseointegration). This process can take up to six months to complete, but creates an incredibly stable, durable prosthetic. After completed osseointegration, the protective cover is replaced by a temporary crown. This serves as a template around which the gum grows and shapes itself in a natural way. The process is completed when the temporary crown is replaced by a permanent crown.
A dental bridge is in some ways less invasive and other ways more invasive than a dental implant. Unlike implants, bridges do not replace a tooth root. Rather, a bridge uses one or more surrounding teeth as a support on which to attach a crown that can fill the missing tooth space. The treatment process is not nearly as long as the implant process (which requires osseointegration); though in some ways it is more invasive because it requires the permanent alteration of adjacent teeth to support the bridge. As the name implies, a dental bridge literally bridges the gap between teeth resulting from a missing tooth. The restoration therefore must be anchored to one or more adjacent teeth, which must first be filed down in order to function as a support.
In the past, a bridge was your only choice, and still involves more than just the missing tooth. The adjacent teeth need to be "prepped" by removing most of the enamel in order to fabricate the bridge. With dental implants, however, the dentist replaces just the individual tooth for a result 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. And if the tooth or teeth have been lost for a long time, the gum and bone will have receded and procedures beyond the implant are required before placement. The advantages and disadvantages to both procedures can ultimately be discussed with your dentist.