We can’t emphasize this fact enough — it’s very important to replace missing teeth. If you don’t, your other teeth will eventually shift inside your mouth, throwing your bite off and creating a host of other problems. Fortunately, modern dental technology offers patients from in and around the Austin, Texas area a variety of options for replacing missing teeth. The traditional appliance used for this purpose is a dental bridge. But there’s another tooth-replacement option that has been growing in popularity over the past several years: dental implants. In this article, we’ll explore the advantages of the tooth bridge vs. implant in an effort to help you decide what would work best for you.
What is a Dental Bridge?
Although there are several different types of bridges available, the basic design of the appliance consists of one or more artificial teeth mounted onto a metal frame and permanently fitted into the patient’s mouth. Usually, bridges are attached to the patient’s natural teeth on either side of the appliance. With a traditional bridge, the adjoining natural teeth (also referred to as “abutment teeth”) require crowns to make sure they’re strong enough to support the bridge without damaging the natural teeth. Other types of bridges may be bonded to the existing teeth on either side, or secured to existing teeth on just one end of the appliance.
Advantages of Dental Bridges
Bridges are nothing new in dentistry. In fact, dental bridges have been used since the early 1900s, although the technology has advanced quite a bit since that time. Still, there are several good reasons why bridges continue to be a popular and common way to replace missing teeth. What follows are some of the greatest advantages that dental bridges offer to patients:
- Bridges are relatively inexpensive – In fact, they are generally considered to be the most cost-effective method used to replace missing teeth.
- Bridges are not removable – Unlike partial dentures, which are similar to full sets of dentures and need to be removed each night before the patient goes to sleep, bridges are permanently affixed inside the patient’s mouth. This means that they don’t move or shift when the patient tries to eat certain foods, and they can be cared for simply by brushing and flossing.
- Bridges are durable – In fact, bridges typically last for many years if they are properly cared for. However, bridges rarely last for the lifetime of the patients and typically do have to be replaced at some point.
- Bridges don’t require a certain amount of bone tissue – Unlike dental implants – which require that the patient have adequate bone tissue present to accommodate the implant – virtually any patient can be fitted with some type of dental bridge assuming that there are abutment teeth available that are strong enough to act as a base for the bridge.
What is a Dental Implant?
An implant consists of a tiny metal rod that is inserted into the jawbone of the patient. Over the course of several months, the metal fuses to the bone tissue, creating what is essentially an artificial tooth root. After that, the dentist affixes an artificial tooth (usually a porcelain crown) to the top of the implant.
The result is a permanent, fully functional tooth replacement. It should be noted, however, that the patient must have an adequate amount of bone tissue present in order to accommodate an implant. If not, a bone graft procedure might be necessary.
Advantages of Dental Implants
Implants have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and with good reason. Here are some of the advantages of this cutting-edge dental technology:
- Implants are permanent – Unlike many other dental appliances (such as dentures, partials, and bridges, for example) implants are permanent replacements for missing teeth. In fact, if properly cared for, an implant can often last for the lifetime of the patient.
- Implants are fully functional – An implant is just as strong, if not stronger, than a natural tooth. That means that the patient can easily enjoy all the foods he or she normally would.
- Implants look and feel completely natural – Because the porcelain material used to create the crown on top of the implant can be made to perfectly match the color of the person’s teeth, it is virtually impossible to tell the difference between an implant and a regular tooth. Just as importantly, an implant feels completely natural to the patient, unlike some other dental appliances which can feel odd or bulky inside the mouth and can take some getting used to on the part of the wearer.
- Implants are easily cared for – There are no special requirements when it comes to caring for implants – the patient simply brushes and flosses as usual.
A Happy Medium: The Implant-Supported Bridge
As you can see, both implants and dental bridges offer several advantages for the patient, which might make it hard to choose between the two. But there is one other option that incorporates the technology of both the bridge and the implant; one that might just be the best option of all for some patients – an implant-supported bridge. This appliance consists of a dental bridge that is supported on either side by dental implants. This tooth-replacement solution doesn’t require that crowns be placed on abutment teeth, and it offers the patient an extremely strong, permanent base for a dental bridge. It is also typically less costly than replacing multiple teeth with dental implants alone.
Whichever option you choose should be a decision that you make with the help of your dentist. The most important thing to keep in mind is this: you should always find some way to replace missing teeth rather than choose to simply live without them. Your oral health is directly connected to your overall health, and having a fully set of functioning teeth is an essential part of good oral health. To find out more about the advantages of a tooth bridge vs. implant, contact your Austin, Texas dentist today and schedule an appointment.