bridges vs. implants

Dental Implants vs. Dental Bridges

Do you have a missing tooth that needs to be replaced? Are you planning to have a tooth extracted? Planning to replace your tooth in a timely manner will help keep your bite aligned, minimize any embarrassing situations, and allow you to eat all the foods you enjoy. Two of the most popular tooth replacement options in Raleigh include dental implants or fixed bridges.

Which is the best treatment? Bridges and implants function completely differently from one another, so you’ll want to consider the advantages of each one. For decades, dental bridges were one of the most common forms of tooth replacement. But today, they may not be the best option in every situation, especially now that dental implants are readily available.

As you compare dental implants vs. dental bridges, here are the most important things you’ll need to keep in mind:


About Dental Bridges

For years, dental bridges have been a tried and true tooth replacement treatment. They typically replace only one or two teeth at a time, rather than multiple ones across your bite. Individuals are usually eligible if the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth are healthy and there is no periodontal disease or active decay. Those teeth need to be stable and strong because they will be what’s responsible for supporting the restoration.

Dental bridges are made using a pair of crowns to suspend an artificial crown. The bridge is anchored on either end by the prepped, natural tooth in that location. You need at least two healthy teeth to get a dental bridge, otherwise, it won’t be able to withstand normal biting and chewing pressure. As a bonus, bridges can help reinforce those supporting teeth if they already have heavy dental work and could benefit from a dental crown.

A dental bridge is a combination of 3-4 crowns that are fused on each side, creating a multi-tooth restoration. Functionally, they create a “bridge” across the gap where you have any missing teeth. Either end of your bridge will essentially function as a crown or “cap” over the teeth on each end.

Normally, bridges are only an option if you need to replace one or two teeth. And only if your other teeth can support it. It is not possible to place longer bridges on top of natural teeth, because the weight would be too much for them to hold up to every day.


Advantages of Dental Bridges

Traditional dental bridges can be used to replace 1-2 teeth at once, provided there are healthy teeth on each side. You won’t need to wear a removable partial denture or “take your teeth out at night.”

The ends of your bridge can also double as crowns to strengthen teeth if they require extra reinforcement. Plus, custom bridges can be matched to your smile so that they look and feel like part of your natural bite. You’ll be able to eat whatever you want, smile in pictures, and nobody should know that anything is different.

Just like crowns, a well-maintained dental bridge can last for several years. You’ll just need to make sure that you floss and brush around it daily. A water flosser can come in handy to help clean underneath your bridge, next to the gums, and on the insides of your supporting teeth.

Bridges are an ideal treatment for our patients who want a permanent tooth replacement as opposed to a smaller removable “flipper” or partial.


Disadvantages of Dental Bridges

Are bridges 100% perfect for every patient? No. Understanding the drawbacks to a dental bridge can help you better decide if they’re the best treatment for your smile.

Dental bridges can be a great option if you don’t want to wear removable partials or false teeth. But bridges also pose one unique dilemma. Every fixed bridge will have a significant impact on the physical structure of adjacent natural teeth that are responsible for supporting it.

How so? If your adjacent teeth are healthy and don’t require any restorative procedures, bridges inherently weaken their enamel by reducing the tooth size and placing a crown over it. This can result in a reduction in their normal lifespan. It would be like placing a filling or crown on a completely healthy, virgin tooth that does not need one. Is the tradeoff worth it? You’ll want to be familiar with all of your options before making a decision.

However, if your natural supporting teeth already have extensive dental work, fractures, or mild areas of decay, getting a bridge placed over them will serve a dual purpose. Not only does it replace your missing tooth, but it also reinforces the healthy ones that might already be “at-risk” in the future.


Raleigh Dental Implants

Dental implants are a modern, advanced treatment option for adults with missing teeth. Unlike other traditional tooth replacements, implants are designed to look like a tooth root and are placed directly in the bone adjacent to your other teeth. In time, your implant fuses to the bone and becomes a permanent part of your smile.

Dental implant failure is extremely rare. In fact, they have the highest success rate of all dental restorations when placed by an experienced implant dentist. And best of all, they offer permanent results.

Depending on the individual, implants can be used for a variety of purposes. Single implants are typically topped off with a crown and installed in areas where only one tooth is missing. Or a pair of dental implants can be set at either end of a larger space, anchoring a multi-tooth dental bridge to fill in the space of 3-4 teeth at a time. And best of all, as few as four implants can be used to restore an entire arch of teeth. Popular All-on-4 and All-on-6 types of implant treatments maximize the strength of implants, requiring fewer restorations while rehabilitating your entire smile.


Benefits of Dental Implants

Implants are different from other common tooth replacements, in that they do not rely on nearby teeth to keep them in place. Instead, implants act as an artificial, but biocompatible, tooth root. They can be used to replace any number of teeth because of how stable they are once they integrate into the bone surrounding them. A fully-integrated implant is highly unlikely to ever fail or need to be replaced.

Implants are easy to maintain and have an extremely high success rate. Most will last for the rest of your life. And even more importantly, they can be used on their own or in combination with other implants depending on how many teeth you need to replace. Best of all, dental implants are non-removable. So even if you don’t qualify for a bridge but want to avoid wearing a denture, dental implants are your best option available.


Combining Dental Implants and Bridges

Can bridges and implants be combined? Absolutely! Especially for our patients who may need a full or partial denture but don’t want a removable prosthesis.

Dental implant bridges are multi-tooth restorations that use dental implants to support longer restorations like 3-4 tooth bridges. Our dental professionals can pair dental implants together to support multiple artificial teeth. Because of their integrity, implant bridges can replace up to three or four teeth at once using as little as two dental implants in total. Implant bridges are similar to traditional dental bridges. Only instead of using natural teeth, there are implants that support either end of the restoration.

When you don’t qualify for a traditional bridge, our Raleigh dentist can expand the possibilities with dental implant therapy by using fixed bridges on top of implants. This opportunity continues even if all of your teeth are missing. Don’t want to wear dentures? Full-arch implant restorations can replace all your upper and lower teeth simultaneously. The implants can be paired together in groups of four to six, providing more support for a sleek, extended hybrid denture/dental bridge.


Why Replace Missing Teeth?

One missing tooth can cause a permanent change in the function and alignment of your smile. Over time, your surrounding teeth will eventually begin to drift out of place when their neighbors go missing. Some teeth tilt inward while others erupt further out of the socket. Your entire bite will be affected, not just the immediate teeth on either side of your missing one. Replacing your missing tooth will help preserve your smile both functionally and aesthetically.

As your bite changes, teeth begin to wear against one another irregularly. This can evolve into problems with broken dental work, worn enamel, and even TMJ or headache problems.

Missing teeth can also cause you to feel self-conscious. A replacement can help you feel more confident about your appearance.

It’s important to choose a tooth replacement as soon as possible to prevent unwanted side effects. Your two fixed options are a dental bridge or an implant.


Raleigh Tooth Replacement

Our Raleigh cosmetic dentists will help you weigh both options concerning your smile’s health and function. That way you’ll feel confident making an informed decision about your oral health. Call Raleigh Dental Arts now to schedule.

Tarun Agarwal

Dr. Tarun Agarwal, DDS is considered one of the top dentists in the country. He is a recognized speaker, author, and dental leader. He has been featured on CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and News 14 Carolina. Dr. Agarwal has been awarded '40 under 40' Business Leaders by the Triangle Business Journal. He is regularly invited to teach other dentists around the world and recently built a training center within the practice dedicated to sharing his expertise. Most importantly he is a loving husband and dedicated father of three wonderful children. His biggest accolade was being voted 'Best Dad in the World' by 2 of his 3 kids.