Individuals who want to improve their smile or address missing teeth are often presented with two cosmetic dental options: Implants or a bridge.
Although these oral components can correct similar issues, they are structurally different and require varying levels of care. In turn, some patients may benefit from one but not the other. Here’s what you should know.
A newer solution, implants work with the jaw’s existing bone structure. A post, usually made from titanium, is inserted into the gums. Over a couple months, the jaw’s surrounding bone attaches and secures to the metal, a process known as osseointegration.
Once it’s stable, an abutment and crown designed to match your existing teeth are placed on top. This solution is often ideal for patients who have lost or severely damaged a tooth or have periodontal disease.
Meanwhile, a bridge typically attaches to existing adjacent healthy teeth. In the process, the enamel is partially shaved down to support a pontic (false tooth) in between.
Newer options, like a Maryland bridge, are attached or embedded into neighboring teeth to better preserve their structure.
How Much Time
Due to osseointegration, implants typically take longer than a bridge. The process of bone securing to the titanium post can take an average of three to six months.
Surgery is initially required to insert the post and certain complications, like jaw fractures, infection and nerve damage, may lengthen the timeframe. If insufficient jawbone is available at the start, bone grafting also extends this structure. At the present time, a single-visit implant procedure does not exist.
Because surgery and osseointegration are not involved, bridges can take a couple visits. As a result, the procedure costs less and your smile can be fixed in less time.
Appearance and Results
In spite of the shorter timeframe, bridges do not look as natural as implants. The design also places stress on the adjacent teeth and does not address bone loss. As such, a well-maintained bridge system can last five to seven years. During this time, patients may continue to experience bone loss – sometimes an issue stemming from missing teeth. Down the road, this factor may pose additional structural issues in your mouth.
To date, implants have the most natural appearance and can last a lifetime with proper maintenance. Although both systems prevent teeth from moving and decay from worsening, implants tend to offer better bite strength, stability and stimulate bone growth.
In general, implants provide about 15 years of use, before the crown needs to be replaced due to wear and tear.
Both restorative procedures require maintenance, not just for the component itself, but also for the health of your mouth’s existing bone and gums.
Bridges often need more maintenance and the pontic may prove to be cumbersome whenever you brush and floss. It’s recommended that patients brush with a silica-based toothpaste and floss at least once daily under the pontic. Continue to see your dentist for regular cleanings.
Implant maintenance is less intensive, but that doesn’t mean you can simply brush and call it a day. Instead, patients with implants have a higher risk of biofilm building up on the implants and gums. This inflames the gum tissue, causing a process called peri-implantitis that causes the body to reject the implants.
To avoid implant rejection, clean your teeth and implants with a soft-bristled nylon brush and low-abrasive toothpaste at least twice a day. Be sure to get underneath the implant’s crown and follow the cleaning with a dental irrigator. Also schedule in flossing with unwaxed floss at least once a day.
Bone Quality and Jaw Structure
Dental implants are only ideal after a patient’s bone growth has finished, usually post-adolescence. Before recommending a procedure, your dentist uses X-ray or CT scan technology to assess available jaw structure.
Yet without a tooth in place, this area will continue to experience bone loss, which may later manifest as a facial deformity. By contrast, an implant’s post helps stimulate this area.
Certain conditions can work against this process or have already significantly affected bone loss, including smoking, diabetes, cancer and periodontal disease. A patient may need a bone graft months before the posts are surgically inserted.
Since existing teeth support a dental bridge and the procedure is less invasive, jawbone health is not a significant factor. Rather, your dentist will assess the quality of neighboring teeth. As such, individuals who have periodontal disease, chips, cracks or decay will need these issues addressed first.
To discuss restorative dental procedures, including bridges and implants, schedule an appointment with Smile Dental Center today.