You have had your tooth extracted and now you are deciding between a dental implant or a bridge. What's the best option?
There are several option to replace a missing tooth: bridge, partial denture, or a dental implant. Bridges or partial dentures were conventional techniques used for years prior to dental implants which is now widely available and highly successful.
Dental implants are the current standard-of-care for teeth replacement. Here are some considerations regarding bridges or dentures as alternative treatments.
Why Conventional Bridges Should be Avoided:
- A conventional bridge is an option for replacement of missing teeth, however, they cause a number of problems and should be avoided.
- Bridges require unnecessary grinding or preparation of adjacent teeth therefore causing permanent damage to them.
- The teeth supporting the bridge are often prone to decay.
- A bridge has an average life span of 6.3 years. This means they fail often and early.
- You cannot floss in between teeth, making hygiene very difficult. This increases the chances of periodontal disease and further tooth loss.
- The underlying bone of missing tooth undergoes resorption or shrinkage. This causes poor aesthetics and difficult hygiene around the bridge.
Why Partial or Full Dentures Should be Avoided:
- Dentures can cause damage to underlying bone and gum tissue resulting in significant defects.
- Dentures have poor retention and move during chewing. This can cause irritation or ulcers to the gum tissues.
- As bone permanently shrinks, the dentures no longer fit well. They require relining. This cycle repeats until there is no bone. The denture then has no retention and the patient becomes incapacitated.
- Bone loss from dentures cause facial collapse resulting in the ‘old tooth-less look’
- Partial dentures also cause damage to teeth due to detrimental forces from the retentive wires.
Why Dental Implants are the Best Treatment Alternative
Dental implants clearly offer the best replacement option in today’s dentistry. Consider the following documented studies:
- Implants are generally 96-98% successful for periods of up to 40+ years. The variations are a result of several factors, including the type of implant, age of the patient, health of the patient, and whether or not the implant is placed in a “compromised” site (e.g. very little bone)
- Recent research indicates that replacing a missing tooth with an implant-supported crown provides benefits for the adjacent natural teeth.
- Success rates for implants do not decrease over time. Compare this to the success rate for bridges, which decreases steadily after 10 years. In fact at 15 years one to three bridges typically fail.
- If more than one tooth is missing, the bridge “span” is longer – and will have an even lower success rate.
Regain Tooth’s Natural Feeling and Appearance:
By replacing the entire tooth, including the root, it is possible to replicate the function of natural teeth, with a strong, stable foundation that allows comfortable biting and chewing. In addition, nothing in the mouth looks or feels artificial.
Preserve Facial Harmony:
Implants preserve the integrity of facial structures. By preventing the bone resorption that would normally occur with the loss of teeth, the facial structures remain intact. This is particularly important when all of the teeth are missing, as the lower one-third of the face collapses if implants are not placed to preserve the bone.
Your smile is improved when replacement teeth look
more like natural teeth. Even when only one tooth is missing, long term
aesthetics are usually much better with an implant-supported replacement
tooth than with a traditional tooth-supported bridge. This is
particularly important in the front of your mouth, where preventing a
visible bone defect is critical for natural appearance.
Preserving Health of Adjacent Teeth:
With dental implants, adjacent teeth are not
compromised to replace missing teeth. Tooth replacement with traditional
tooth-supported bridges requires grinding down the teeth adjacent to
the missing tooth/teeth, so that the bridge can be cemented onto them.
This tooth structure can never be replaced and the long-term health of
these teeth is compromised. Partial dentures have clasps that hook
onto adjacent teeth, putting pressure on them as the partial rocks back
and forth. Eventually these teeth can loosen and come out as a result of
this pressure. Replacing missing teeth with implant supported
crowns/bridges does not involve the adjacent natural teeth, so they are
not compromised or damaged.
Better Quality of Life:
Overall quality of life is enhanced with replacement
teeth that look, feel, and function like natural teeth. With implant
supported replacement teeth, the appearance of the smile is more
natural, and the teeth function more like natural teeth. The result is
increased comfort and confidence when smiling, speaking, and eating. If
dentures and partials are replaced with implant supported teeth, the
overall enhancement in quality of life is even more significant, with an
ability to eat all types of foods, elimination of messy adhesives, and
improved speech, comfort and appearance.
Better Oral Hygiene:
It is much easier to care for an implant supported crown, which can be cleaned like a natural tooth. In comparison, a tooth-supported bridge requires the use of a floss threader for proper cleaning. It is also more convenient to clean a full set of implant supported replacement teeth than a traditional denture.
Since implants preserve bone, preventing
deterioration of the facial structures, appearance is improved. Collapse
of the lower one-third of the face caused by complete tooth loss can be
visually corrected and the remaining bone preserved. The appearance of
wrinkles around the mouth caused by posterior bite collapse, or complete
facial structure collapse is virtually eliminated.
Restored Self-Esteem and Renewed Self-Confidence:
Many of the people who now enjoy the benefits of
implant supported replacement teeth state that their self esteem and
self confidence have been restored as a result of improved appearance,
function, comfort, and health.
Improved Ability to Eat and Taste Foods:
Wearing an upper denture can prevent someone from really tasting food, as the roof of the mouth is covered. With implant supported replacement teeth, it is not necessary to cover the roof of the mouth, so it is possible to enjoy the taste of foods.
Dental Implants Safety:
Dental implants are made of completely biologically compatible “bone-friendly” titanium material, that naturally heals and integrates with the surrounding tissues. Because titanium is accepted so well by the human body, it is also used for orthopedic implants, such as hip and knee replacements.
Dental implants are very safe and predictable, and complications can be avoided when performed by a trained, skillful, and experienced oral surgeon using specialized instruments and techniques.