Which Is Better Bridge Or Implant
The most common question I am asked by patients who are considering implants or bridges for their missing teeth is “which one should I choose?” It’s an easy decision to make, but it can be complicated if you don’t know what all the differences mean. There are many things that go into choosing between these two methods of replacement. For a patient with no money to spend on cosmetic dentistry, there may not be any difference in price; however, for someone willing to take out a second mortgage, this choice could save thousands over your lifetime. Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of each method so we can better decide which will work best for our needs.
Bridge vs. Implants – Pros and Cons
Durable – A bridge must have crowns made from porcelain (or other materials) that need periodic adjustments every 3-5 years. This process is costly and time consuming. In addition, because bridges are attached to neighboring teeth, they often move around when chewing food, and can also cause sensitive gums or pain.
Implants do not require crowns, making them much less expensive and quicker to place. They also stay put during function. Because the titanium metal used in implants does not react well with tooth enamel, there is very little chance of decay under the implant.
There is a small risk of infection with both types of prosthetics. Implants use barrier membranes to keep bacteria away, while bridges rely on abutments to seal off the space below the prosthetic. Both procedures involve drilling into bone, which makes the possibility of infection higher.
Because the roots of natural teeth are longer than those of artificial ones, there is a greater risk of damage if the root gets pinched as it emerges through the top of the mouth. This is called periapical disease and affects only natural teeth. Artificial teeth do not form part of the body’s immune system, so they cannot fight infections like the rest of your body’s cells can.
Cost – Bridges are usually considerably cheaper than implants. However, even though they cost less up front, they end up costing significantly more over time. If you live long enough, you’ll probably find yourself paying hundreds of dollars extra for implants compared to a bridge.
Most insurance companies won’t cover bridges after 5 years, although if you’re lucky enough to still have your original teeth, you might get coverage for another five years. Even then, you’ll likely pay a high percentage of the total cost. Most private insurers offer coverage for implants for 10 years.
Longevity – Although a bridge can last 20 years or more, it’s unlikely to survive that long without major changes. Typically, bridges need regular adjustments, including removal of excess cement, grinding down material built up along the sides of the bridge, and replacing worn veneers. All of these processes can lead to cracks forming in the porcelain crowns. Once a crack develops, the bridge has to be removed, and new crowns placed. This procedure is painful and expensive.
Immediate loading – With implants, once you’ve been approved for treatment, you can have immediate placement of the permanent restoration. You’re able to eat immediately, and you typically return home the same day.
Bridges generally take several weeks before completion, and you’re required to wait until healing occurs before eating anything solid. After a period of about 2 months, you’ll begin to see the bridge appear underneath your gum line. During this time, you’ll be limited to liquids and soft foods such as mashed potatoes, pudding, ice cream, etc. This waiting period adds additional discomfort and expense.
Pain control – Some people experience significant pain during chewing or smiling. This is especially true if you have suffered an injury to your jaw or experienced previous surgery involving the area where your bridge was placed. Patients with severe cases of temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), nerve damage, or facial trauma may not be candidates for either type of prosthesis.
Noise levels – Implants tend to produce far more noise than bridges. This is due to the fact that bridges have thinner layers of acrylic resin covering the metal framework.
Smile appearance – Many people worry about how a bridge looks when viewed from the side. While sometimes noticeable, it doesn’t impact how functional the appliance really is. Your smile will actually seem more open and friendly.
Other factors – Other considerations include whether you want to lose your own teeth, how visible the gap is, whether you plan to replace lost teeth later, and how good your overall oral health is. These issues aren’t relevant to most patients, but if you feel strongly about them, you might want to consider consulting with a dentist first.
While there are advantages and disadvantages to each method, the truth is that for most people, neither option is perfect. We are unique individuals, and the right solution for us may differ greatly from others. Therefore, it’s important to discuss your options carefully with your doctor and determine the best course of action for your particular situation.
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