Sometimes, patients who come in to see us at Wimmer Dental in Centennial are not sure what’s the better choice, dental bridge or implant. Thanks to advances in technology, patients who have lost teeth or who may need to have a tooth pulled have more options than in the past. It is a good idea to consider all the factors before making the best choice for your situation.
The more traditional restorative dental bridge involves grinding down adjacent teeth and using them as anchors. A three-tooth bridge is created and in the process.
On the other hand, a dental implant only involves the one tooth. Dental implants are very similar to crowns. While a crown uses the original root as the base for a cap, an implant creates an artificial root as the foundation for the crown.
Implants are comprised of three parts. The implant is actually a titanium post that is screwed into the patient’s jaw. The tissues of the surrounding jawbone grow around the post, creating a stable base for the crown. An abutment is then placed over the implant protecting the gum line as the tissue continues to grow. In the last step, a permanent crown is adhered to the abutment.
Because dental implants involve surgery, there is a larger risk of complications. There is a possibility of infection at the site. The surrounding teeth can suffer as a result of the surgery or infection. There is a chance of permanent nerve damage that can numb your mouth. If the implant is done in the upper portion of your mouth, there is a risk of unexpected sinus problems. However, this risk is fairly rare these days.
The lower jaw has a higher risk of nerve damage. The actual surgery to your lower jaw is much longer in surgery time as a result, and the cost associated with lower jaw surgery is higher. Many people will opt out of an implant in their lower jaw due to these factors and the possibility of a numb chin. Additional risks for implant surgery include issues with the bone failing to fuse with the dental implant and failing bone grafts (for larger implant procedures).
The risks of a dental bridge are more minimal, but a dental bridge can still collapse if the teeth used for support are not strong enough or healthy enough. An ill-fitting bridge may also result in decay of the tooth underneath.
Healing for most implants takes longer anywhere from two months to 11 months (if a bone graft is involved), though for the most straightforward implants the healing can be completed in as little as a month. Traditional dental bridge-work, on the other hand, can take as little as two or three weeks. For some people, the length of healing time is an important consideration.
Dental implants can be costly and may not be covered by insurance or if it is covered, the rate of coverage may be lower. Bridges, being more traditional, tend to be well covered by insurance. The most costly part of an implant is not the implant itself, but the crown, which is needed for either procedure. For whatever reason, some insurance companies will not cover a crown that is being applied to an implant, but will cover one being applied for a bridge. If cost is a concern for you, thoroughly investigating what your insurance will cover will be an important part of you decision. Our staff can certainly help you sort out what’s covered by your insurance and how much your final cost will be. We also accept financing through Care Credit.
Are You a Good Candidate?
Some people must make a decision about whether to get a bridge or an implant based strictly on what option their current health will allow. While a bridge seems to work well for almost anyone as long as the surrounding teeth are in good condition, a dental implant has many more health considerations.
Children are generally not good candidates for implants because the bones in their jaws have not reached maturity. People who smoke or have weakened immune systems are not considered to be good candidates for implants. Diabetics are also generally considered unsafe candidates for implants. The best potential patients for implants have healthy jawbones that can support an implant and also have healthy adjacent teeth surrounding the implant (this can make a difference in a person’s long-term oral health).
The overall history of a patient’s oral health is often considered. Patients who have issues with their oral health may not be good candidates. An oral surgeon will often consider how well an implant may last given the patient’s oral health history. If a patient doesn’t take care of their mouth in general, it is questionable how long an implant will last in such an environment. The health history of adjacent teeth is important as well. If your adjacent teeth are missing, have crowns, or have had a root canal, you may be a better dental bridge candidate. Good bones are also an important health consideration. Having a solid oral history and bone health is particularly important for the long-term success of an implant.
What’s the better choice, dental bridge or implant? The answer will depend heavily on your situation and personal circumstances. Many people who have implants are incredibly happy in the long run. Implants can last and preserve the overall health of your other teeth. Other people opt for bridges for a multitude of very good reasons and very happy with the results in the long run.
If you still have questions, call us at Wimmer Dental in Centennial, and we can help you determine which option may be best for you given your particular circumstances. If you know which option you would prefer, we can also get you set up for a consultation for the option you have chosen to confirm whether it is the best for you and your oral health.