Dental Implants vs Bridges: Understanding the Differences and Benefits

Dental Implants vs Bridges: Understanding the Differences and Benefits By Dr. Jon ( Junyi ) Ho | January 10, 2023

Losing a tooth can be a challenging and uncomfortable experience. Fortunately, thanks to advances in modern dentistry, there are options available to address the aesthetic and functional problems associated with tooth loss.

Dental implants and bridges are two of the most popular tooth replacements. Each treatment offers distinct advantages and disadvantages, which should be considered when choosing between them.

In this blog post, we’ll provide a breakdown of both procedures. We’ll also discuss the respective pros and cons of each option. This way, you can determine which dental treatment is right for you.

Keep reading to learn more!

Summary of the Article

  • Dental implants and dental bridges are treatments used to address missing teeth and restore dental health.
  • The parts of dental implants include the implant post, an abutment, and a prosthesis.
  • The parts of dental bridges include an abutment, pontic (artificial tooth), and connectors.
  • Recovery time for dental implants is 3-6 months. Bridges take about two weeks.
  • The benefits of dental implants include durability, jawbone preservation, and a natural look and feel.
  • Benefits of using bridges include lower cost than implants and shorter treatment times without invasive surgery.
  • Dental implants usually last 25 years with proper care. A bridge needs replacement after 5-7 years but may survive longer if maintained well.
  • Both prosthetics can replace multiple missing teeth.
  • A bridge requires remaining healthy teeth to anchor on.
  • A dental implant needs enough bone tissue for stability.
  • Dental implants are more expensive than bridges, ranging from $4,000 to $6,000 each, as opposed to $500 to $2,300 for a single dental bridge unit.

 

pretty female patient sitting in armchair while doctor with assistant examining her teeth

What Are Dental Implants and How Do They Work?

Dental implants are dental prosthetics that provide a long-term solution to missing teeth. They provide patients with tooth replacements that are closest to natural teeth. 

Dental implants consist of three key elements that work together to simulate the look, feel, and function of natural teeth.

  • Implant Post: This is a surgically placed metal post, usually made of titanium, compatible with the body. It integrates with the jawbone, providing a sturdy base for prosthetic teeth.
  • Abutment: An abutment is a connector piece that attaches the dental prosthesis to the titanium post. It is usually made of titanium or ceramic and helps to stabilise the replacement teeth in place.
  • Dental Prosthesis: This is a custom-made artificial tooth made of either porcelain or metal. It replaces one or more missing teeth and could be a dental crown, bridge, or denture.

 

These three components are put together at different stages of the dental implant process. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. The dental implant placement process begins with an initial consultation, wherein your dentist will evaluate your oral health and needs to determine if dental implants are suited for you.
  2. The next step involves preparing for implant installation. This may include tooth extraction, bone grafting, or sinus lift when necessary.
  3. Once your dentist is satisfied with your dental health, you will undergo implant surgery to place the implant post, which will serve as an artificial tooth root. Over time, the dental implant post will fuse to your natural jawbone. This provides stability and a secure foundation for your dental prosthesis.
  4. After the post has integrated with the bone, an abutment is placed on top. This attaches the dental prosthesis to the implant post.
  5. An impression will be taken to be used to fabricate the prosthesis. Once done, the prosthesis will be attached to the abutment, completing the dental implant.
a closeup portrait of a female dentist consulting her patient. preventive medical annual check up. positive facial expression

What Are Dental Bridges and How Do They Work?

Dental bridges are a common way to fill gaps left by missing teeth. The components of dental bridges include:

  • An abutment: An abutment is a dental crown that anchors the bridge. It is attached to the tooth adjacent to the gap left by the missing tooth or teeth. 
  • A pontic: The pontic is the artificial tooth that takes the place of your missing tooth.
  • A connector: The connector is part of the bridge that splints or joins the abutments and pontic.

Dental bridge placement usually requires a minimum of two appointments with your dentist. The process is as follows:

  1. The dentist will prepare your abutments for the bridge. They will trim or reshape these teeth to make room for the abutment. After which, an impression will be taken to be used to fabricate the bridge in the dental laboratory. 
  2. Once the bridge is fabricated, you will return for a second appointment wherein your dentist will check if the bridge fits well and blends in with your natural teeth. They will make adjustments when necessary. 
  3. Once everything is determined to be just right, your dentist will bond or cement the bridge in place.

What Is the Recovery Process Like for Dental Implants and Bridges?

The recovery process for dental implant surgery is relatively long compared to dental bridges. It takes three to six months. During this time, the implant fuses with the jawbone, making the recovery period a crucial part of the treatment as it contributes significantly to the stability and longevity of the restoration. For these reasons, it is important that patients strictly comply with their dentist’s instructions during this time.

During the recovery period from dental implants, patients often consult closely with their dentists. This is to make sure they are taking all the appropriate steps toward a successful recovery. After the recovery period, patients should find that their teeth look and feel better than ever.

As for dental bridges, the recovery process is usually much shorter. Since a bridge is not implanted directly into the jawbone, a lengthy recovery time is not needed. However, it may still take a week or two for the patient to get used to the bridge. 

As with any dental procedure, patients must follow their dentist’s instructions closely and take all the necessary steps for a successful recovery. Proper oral hygiene is essential. Patients should brush and floss regularly and visit their dentist for regular checkups during the healing process.

What Are the Benefits of Dental Implants?

Dental implants are quickly becoming the gold standard for replacing missing teeth. In fact, they come with a high success rate. Dental implants look and feel like real teeth and provide benefits that outshine other tooth replacement methods.

Some benefits of dental implants include the following:

  • Natural look and feel: Dental implants are fixed to the jawbone. Thus, the implant looks, feels, and functions like a natural tooth.
  • Durability: Dental implants are made of titanium. It is a strong, durable material that can last for many years.
  • Improved chewing ability: With dental implants, missing teeth can be replaced with artificial teeth that look and function like natural teeth. This helps improve your ability to chew and eat normally than if you had a dental bridge or denture.
  • Improved oral health: Dental implants are firmly attached to the jawbone. Thus, they do not require adjacent teeth for support. The surrounding teeth are preserved, which helps promote optimal oral health.
  • Improved self-esteem: Completing your smile with implants can boost your confidence and make you feel better about yourself socially and professionally.
  • Improved speech: Missing teeth can cause difficulty in speaking or pronouncing certain words. Dental implants allow for improved enunciation and clearer speech.
  • Jawbone preservation: A dental implant stimulates bone growth. Without this stimulation, the jawbone gradually deteriorates. Bone loss results in changes to facial structure and facial sagging.
  • Longevity: This is one of the most significant advantages of dental implants. With proper care, most implants can last for several decades. This makes dental implants ideal for those needing long-term tooth replacement solutions.

 

With these benefits, it’s no wonder why dental implants are one of the most popular tooth replacement options available today

What Are the Benefits of Dental Bridges?

Dental bridges offer many benefits to people who are missing teeth. These benefits include:

  • Less expensive: Dental bridges are more affordable than dental implants. This makes them a good option for those with a limited budget.
  • More stable: Unlike removable partial dentures, a bridge is cemented on abutment teeth, making it stable. Patients can feel secure knowing their bridge will stay firmly in place while eating and talking.
  • Improved appearance: A bridge can restore the original shape of your face by providing lip and cheek support. This way, facial sagging is prevented. 
  • Doesn’t require bone grafting: Unlike dental implants, a bridge doesn’t require a bone graft procedure. This is because the bridge is supported by the surrounding teeth. They rely less on bone.
  • Faster treatment time: Dental bridges can usually be completed in two dental visits. They don’t require a long recovery or healing period as implants do.
  • No invasive surgery involved: Dental bridges don’t require any invasive oral surgery, further lessening the treatment time.

Are There Any Risks Associated With Dental Implants?

surgical procedure. Potential risks include:

  • Allergic reaction: Although rare, an allergic reaction can occur after getting dental implants. This may be due to a material used in the implant or an adverse response to anesthesia.
  • Damage to the surrounding teeth: If not properly placed, the dental bridge or crown may damage other teeth.
  • Dental implant failure: Implant failure can occur if insufficient bone is available to support the implant. Additionally, improper installation of implants and the presence of certain medical conditions (uncontrolled diabetes, autoimmune disease) can cause them to fail.
  • Further bone loss: If not monitored properly, the implant site may experience further bone loss over time due to a lack of proper maintenance and care.
  • Implant rejection: Although rare, your body may reject implants because they are considered foreign bodies. This can cause inflammation and infection at the implant site.
  • Infection: An infection is caused by bacteria that may be present in the mouth. Follow your dentist’s instructions for proper post-operative care to minimise the risk of infection.
  • Nerve damage: Nerve damage occurs when the implant is placed too close to the nerves in the jaw bone. This can cause pain, numbness, and tingling sensations.
  • Sinus problems: Implants placed in the upper jaw can potentially perforate the maxillary sinus if insufficient bone is present, leading to pain and infection.

 

Though some risks are associated with dental implants, most patients experience no complications. However, potential patients must understand all risks before dental implants.

Are There Any Risks Associated With Dental Bridges?

Dental bridges are a reliable form of replacing missing teeth. However, like many dental procedures, risks accompany them. Some of the risks are as follows:

  • Allergic reactions: Some patients may experience an allergic reaction to the material used to fabricate the bridge.
  • Bone loss: Over time, the bone underneath the pontics may shrink due to the lack of stimulation in that area.
  • Damage to healthy teeth surrounding the missing tooth: Healthy teeth are trimmed and shaped to support the dental bridge.
  • Decay underneath the bridge: Plaque and bacteria can accumulate under the bridge. This can lead to tooth decay.
  • Gum disease: Poor oral hygiene can cause the gums around the bridge to become inflamed, leading to gum disease (periodontal disease).

 

Dental bridges have certain risks that must be considered before deciding whether it is right for you. Fortunately, these risks can be managed by keeping a good oral hygiene routine on your way to a beautiful smile.

How Long Do Dental Implants and Bridges Last?

Patients interested in dental implants can rest easy knowing that these restorations are long-lasting. On average, dental implants can last for over 25 years with proper care and maintenance.

On the other hand, bridges do not last as long. They need to be replaced after 5-7 years. However, with good dental hygiene and regular dental visits, they can be made to last for a decade or longer.

Can Dental Implants and Bridges Be Used to Replace All Missing Teeth?

People who are missing all of their teeth can use dental implants. There are different types of full-mouth dental implant treatments available, and they are as follows:

  • All-on-4 Full Dental Implants: All-on-4 dental implants provide a long-term solution for replacing missing teeth. This innovative technique uses only four implants to securely hold dentures in place, reducing the need for bone grafting and other secondary procedures.
  • Implant-Retained Dentures: Implant-retained dentures are made of a frame that holds the artificial gums and false teeth in place. The frame connects to the abutments from the implant, so these dentures don’t require snapping into place – they’re secured in your mouth by connecting to your titanium implants.
  • Implant-Supported Dentures: Implant-supported dentures are similar to implant-retained dentures in that they depend on implants for stability and placement but require more implants than All-on-4s. It is also removable.

 

As for dental bridges, they can replace multiple teeth, but not all. There should be remaining teeth to serve as an anchor of the bridge. Additionally, the number of teeth left must be enough to support the load of the bridge.

How Do the Costs of Dental Bridges Compare to Dental Implants?

When deciding between dental bridges and implants, it is important to consider the cost associated with each procedure. Dental bridge costs vary depending on the material chosen but, in general, are more affordable than dental implants. Implants involve replacing a whole tooth root and thus require a surgical procedure, titanium posts, and porcelain crowns, making these treatments more expensive than bridges. 

Dental bridges have an average price tag of $500-$2,300 for a single tooth replacement. Meanwhile, dental implants range from an estimated expense of $4,000 -$6,000 per implant.

What Factors Should I Consider When Choosing Between Dental Implants and Bridges?

Choosing between dental implants and bridges to replace missing teeth requires consideration of several factors. These include the following:

  • The number of missing teeth: A dental bridge may be more cost-effective if you’re only missing one tooth. However, dental implants can provide a more secure and long-term solution if you’re missing several teeth.
  • Bone loss: If you have significant bone loss in the jaw, dental implants may not be viable as they require a healthy amount of bone tissue to anchor them securely. In such cases, additional procedures, such as bone grafting or sinus lift, may be considered to increase the success of dental implants.
  • Budget: Dental bridges are less expensive than dental implants as they require fewer visits, cheaper materials, and shorter treatment times. However, dental bridges may need to be replaced sooner than implants, so it may be more cost-effective to pay for a tooth implant in the long run.
  • Lifestyle: Dental implants are the better option if you want a treatment that will withstand an active lifestyle. Unlike bridges, implants don’t require the reduction of healthy teeth and provide greater stability and oral health benefits. Because they look and feel like natural teeth, you can play any sport without worrying about them coming loose or falling out, like with a bridge.
  • Oral hygiene: Both implants and bridges require a strict oral hygiene routine to maintain effectiveness. For bridges, tooth decay can be an issue as they attach to natural teeth – while implants are made out of titanium, making them more resilient against decay. However, both restorations are prone to gum disease. For these reasons, it is important to brush and floss regularly if you want them to last.  
  • Long-term goals: If you want a tooth replacement that lasts, then dental implants are the ideal treatment for you. The initial cost of implants is  higher than that of other alternatives, but the investment pays off in their durability. With proper care and maintenance, implant-supported teeth can last more than 25 years – longer than a dental bridge could ever last. Although pricey up front, these durable replacements help avoid expensive repeat procedures over a long period of time.
  • Age: Both dental bridges and implants may be suitable for adults of any age. This depends on the individual’s oral health. However, younger people tend to have healthier gums and bones. Thus, they are better able to support dental implants. This makes dental implants the go-to tooth replacement of choice for younger patients.

Final Thoughts

Dental bridges may be popular for those who want a more affordable solution. However, dental implants can offer greater longevity and better oral hygiene benefits in the long run.

Ultimately, the most suitable option for replacing missing teeth will depend on many factors. There is no one-size-fits-all prosthesis when selecting a replacement for missing teeth. Each patient’s case and oral health condition are very different. Hence, it’s crucial to consult a reliable and experienced dental professional.

Darch Dental Centre is committed to helping our patients discover the tooth replacement option that meets their oral health goals in line with their budget. Our experienced dentists strive to make sure everyone leaves feeling confident about the treatment decision they’ve made. Please book an appointment for a consultation in our dental clinic. You may book through our website or by calling us today!

Dr. Jon ( Junyi ) Ho

Dr. Jon is a Perth-based dentist who graduated with a Bachelor of Dental Science in 2005 from the University of Western Australia. He has worked at a range of dental practices, including being a partner and principal dentist for a group of five dental surgeries in Sydney. Dr. Jon has been practising for over a decade in the northern suburbs of Perth. He provides treatment for patients in Darch, Madeley, Landsdale, Kingsway, Kingsley, Marangaroo, Alexander Heights, Wangara, Ellenbrook, and others.

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