Replacement teeth benefit more than your smile’s appearance. Just one missing tooth can impact the alignment of your teeth, the shape of your jaw, your oral health, and your ability to eat and speak. You have a lot of treatment options when it comes to choosing natural-looking replacement teeth, but two of the most popular ways to restore your smile are dental implants and bridges.
Dental Bridge vs Dental Implant
Dental implants are artificial tooth roots inserted into your jawbone. Over time, the bone grows around the implant securing it in place. Your false teeth (a crown, bridge, or dentures) are screwed to the implant. The false teeth connected to your implants can be fixed or removable.
Dental bridges are artificial teeth held in place by your natural teeth on either side of your missing tooth or teeth — creating a bridge over the gap. To support a bridge, your natural teeth are shaved down and crowns are bonded to them. These crowns support the false tooth or teeth in the middle of the bridge. There are also implant-supported bridges.
Check out the side-by-side comparison below and read on for a more in-depth breakdown of each category.
|Implants vs Bridges|
|Dental Implants||Dental Bridges|
|Replace one tooth||✔️||✔️|
|Replace multiple teeth||✔️||✔️|
|Inserted into jawbone||✔️||❌|
|Requires several appointments||✔️||❌|
|Can prevent bone loss||✔️||❌|
|Requires natural teeth||❌||✔️|
|Prevents shifting teeth||✔️||✔️|
|Risk of damage to/decay of surrounding teeth||❌||✔️|
|Care is similar to natural teeth|
|Materials||Titanium||Porcelain or plastic|
|Lifespan||Can last a lifetime||5–7+ years|
|Typical cost||Can be more expensive||Can be less expensive|
Pros and Cons
Dental implants and dental bridges offer natural-looking solutions to the same problem: missing teeth. But they each have their own advantages (and some drawbacks).
|Dental Implants||Dental Bridges|
The cost for dental implants and bridges will vary depending on material, your insurance provider, your dentist, where you live, the number of teeth you are replacing, and any other dental procedures — such as extractions or grafting — you might require.
Dental Implants Cost
The longer, more-invasive process of getting dental implants means more appointments, which typically results in higher costs. Dental implants also take a lot longer to make, so if you opt for temporary dentures while you wait for your permanent set, that will incur an additional cost as well.
Implants are also made of higher-quality (and therefore more expensive) materials than bridges such as titanium for the implant fixture and abutment and ceramic or porcelain for the crowns. But comparing costs is not apples-to-apples.
Dental Bridge Cost
Although dental bridges tend to have a lower cost up-front, they often end up costing more over time. Bridges need to be replaced every 5–10 years. Additionally, bridges put more pressure on the surrounding natural teeth it uses as support, which can cause root damage and cracked teeth. Fixing these subsequent problems also comes at a cost.
Appearance and Functionality
Both dental implants and dental bridges are natural-looking in appearance and are made to match your natural tooth color. They vary slightly in function and visibility, but you will get used to them in a matter of time.
Dental implants are custom fitted to your mouth so that the false teeth screwed to the implants — whether permanent or removable — fit and feel like your natural teeth. Because your jawbone grows around the implant, they are an incredibly secure replacement for your tooth roots and foundation for your new teeth. There is a slight adjustment period, but that is mostly due to the sensation of something new in your mouth.
Unless you have an implant-supported bridge, dental bridges aren’t embedded in your jawbone and gums, and therefore their structure might be slightly visible. Because the teeth in a bridge are connected, they cannot be flossed as you would with individual replacement or natural teeth. This may feel slightly different than natural teeth for some bridge wearers. Like implants, there is an adjustment period to living with a dental bridge, but it should feel more comfortable the longer you wear it.
The major difference between dental implants and bridges is in the procedure for how each is placed in your mouth. Dental implants are artificial tooth roots mounted into your jawbone, while bridges are artificial teeth placed on top of existing natural teeth.
Dental Implants Procedure
Dental implants require major surgery (with anesthesia) and several appointments over several months. Once the jawbone grows around the implant to secure it, you will need another surgery to attach an abutment to the implant before receiving your crowns, bridges, or dentures. The abutment is a piece of metal that attaches your false teeth to the implant. Each surgery requires recovery time. This is in addition to any recovery time needed if you have any bone grafting or tooth extractions done before you can receive your implants.
You will also begin the process with one or more consultations during which your dentist will examine the state of your oral health and take impressions. There are also follow up appointments during your recovery period(s). The entire process for dental implants takes 6 months to a year or more to complete.
|If you’re looking for implants in less time, you may be a candidate for our All-In-One Solution. Also known as Full Mouth Dental Implants, this option features an implant-secured bridge spanning your entire upper and/or lower jaw. The procedure it's completed in a day.|
Dental Bridges Procedure
There is no major surgery required for dental bridges, but the process still requires some preparatory work and assessment of your oral health. For bridges to be placed in your mouth, the natural teeth on either side of your missing teeth are filed down by a minimum of 1 millimeter (about 0.04 in). During your first visit, your dentist will take impressions of your teeth to create a mold for the bridge.
Once the bridges are ready, you will have a second visit where the crowns are placed. This involves gluing crowns to your natural teeth to support the false teeth (aka the bridge part of the bridge) in between the crowns. This is done using local anesthetic to minimize the pressure felt during the procedure.
Lifespan and After Care
With proper cleaning and maintenance, both implants and bridges will last longer than they would if you do not take care of your oral health. Brushing and flossing with implants is the same as your natural teeth, but because the teeth are connected in a bridge, cleaning is not as simple. Regular follow-up appointments are important for implants and bridges so your dentist can spot any issues before they arise.
Depending on the type of dental implant you get, Implants can last decades and often do not need replacing at all. They do not have nerves and are therefore not at risk of root canals or nerve damage. In rare cases, your jawbone may fail to fuse to the implant. If this happens, the implant will be removed, and the surgery may be repeated after your gums and jawbone has healed.
In addition to maintaining your oral health, you can protect your implants further by abstaining from tobacco products, avoiding chewing on hard candies and ice, and notifying your dentist if you grind your teeth — all of which can damage your implants and risk infection.
Bridges weaken over time due to the unsupported pressure put on them by daily use and the fact that part of your natural teeth has been filed away. They will eventually require restoration and/or replacement, typically every 5–7 years, but how well you take care of your bridge will determine how frequently it needs treatment.
Bridges are naturally more susceptible to failure and other issues than implants. Because your natural teeth are utilized to support the bridge, fracturing of those teeth is more likely. Those teeth are also more at risk of a root canal, cavities, and gum disease due to the added pressure which can affect the nerve health.
What’s Right for You: Bridge or Implant?
Dental implants and dental bridges are discrete, natural-looking solutions to restore your smile. In most cases, the choice of whether a bridge or implant is best for you will depend on the state of your current oral health, specifically your existing teeth and your jawbone density.
Implants do not cause any damage to your existing teeth. They don’t require the teeth to be filed down and don’t put any additional pressure on your existing teeth like bridges do. Additionally, while bridges secure teeth adjacent to your missing tooth to prevent them from shifting, it does not have the benefit of filling the socket of the missing tooth like an implant and therefore does not prevent bone loss over time.
If you do not have enough existing healthy bone in your jaw or your insurance will not cover the cost of implants, a bridge may be your best tooth replacement option. In general, however, implants are a better overall solution. They may cost more upfront, but their longevity is better and risk of further complications is lower than that of dental bridges.
There are situations in which you may not be a candidate for a bridge or implants. If you smoke, have undergone radiation to your neck and jaw, or have secondary health complications such as diabetes, your dentist may recommend full dentures or partial dentures instead. If you have gum disease or require tooth extractions or bone grafting to support implants or a bridge, your dentist will treat those issues before your new teeth can be placed.
You Deserve to Love Your Smile!
At Affordable Dentures & Implants, we offer several ways to replace missing teeth and give you back your natural smile at an affordable price. The first step is to schedule an appointment with your local practice for an assessment to determine the treatment options that are right for you.