Traditionally, missing teeth have been replaced using bridges, or fixed partial dentures. Today, advances in dentistry have made improved dental implants available to patients seeking to replace missing or extracted teeth.
According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, approximately 69% of all adults "have lost at least one permanent tooth to an accident, gum disease, a failed root canal or tooth decay." As a result, the majority of people will at some point be faced with the question: dental implants or fixed bridges?
Bridges vs. Implants
To obtain a bridge, a patient must first have existing teeth on either side of a missing tooth. (These existing teeth will serve as anchors for the bridge.) The teeth are reduced in size, and a false (prosthetic) bridge is created that fills the gap with a false tooth. Each end of the bridge is bonded to the existing, reduced teeth. Patients must exercise care when cleaning the bridge site, and bridges generally need to be replaced every 7 to 15 years to prevent decay and to repair any damage to the bridgework.
In contrast, dental implants (or single-tooth implants) do not rely on surrounding teeth. To create a standard implant implant, titanium metal is fused with the patient's jawbone using a process known as osseointegration. Once osseointegration is complete, a custom-made dental crown is attached to the implant post. Typically, patients experience a 90-95% success rate 10 years after first undergoing an implant procedure.
Advantages of Implants Over Bridges
Dental implants offer many advantages over bridges or fixed partial dentistry, including the following:
o More natural look
o Greater alignment with you natural jaw line
o No damage to surrounding teeth
o Easier to care for and clean, leading to better periodontal health
o More cost effective in the long term, as replacements are not needed as frequently (or, sometimes, at all)
o Placement is more flexible, as the missing tooth area does not need to be surrounded by existing teeth
In the end, dental implants offer significant advantages over bridges in nearly every area, from look to health to cost. Aside from the cosmetic benefits, dental implants can help patients maintain the same speech patterns and chewing abilities that they had before losing the affected tooth. Considering all the benefits dental implants can offer, patients have many reasons to say good-bye to bridges forever.