Tooth loss can significantly affect appearance as well as chewing function and, as a result, can degrade your sense of self-confidence. Historically, missing teeth have been replaced using a dental bridge. In more extreme cases of oral disease, a dentist may recommend full dentures. Today, we have the option of replacing missing teeth, even a single tooth, using dental implants. Technically, a dental implant functions very differently than a dental bridge. If you are exploring your options for tooth replacement, it is important to understand the difference so you can make the most confident decision for your long-term oral health.
What is a Dental Bridge?
A dental bridge is a custom-made fixture that is attached to healthy teeth surrounding the gap. In the gap, a pontic sits on top of the gums. The pontic is an artificial tooth that is fused in between two crowns. It looks and feels natural once it is bonded into place. To fit a dental bridge, the dentist must reduce the two healthy teeth that will anchor the fixture. These teeth are covered with the crowns that hold the pontic and stabilize the bridge as a whole. The primary advantage of a dental bridge is that this treatment has a lower up-front cost than other options. The treatment process typically takes no more than a few weeks, and there are no special requirements in terms of bone density. The disadvantage of a dental bridge is that the force of chewing is not as evenly distributed across the teeth. The two teeth that hold the bridge may carry more strain. It is also important to note that a dental bridge does not address the concerns related to underlying structural problems that can occur after tooth loss. Mainly, the concern is that, without roots beneath the gap, bone loss occurs.
What is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is not a replacement tooth. It is a tiny titanium post that the dentist inserts into the jawbone where the missing tooth’s roots once were. The dental implant serves two purposes. First, it acts as the primary anchor for a replacement tooth. Second, it serves as an alternate root system. When you chew, the force of mastication travels through the crown, through the dental implant, to the bone. This mimics what happens with natural teeth, and is integral to sustaining a healthy jawbone. The primary advantage of dental implant treatment is that the resulting stability for the artificial tooth is nearly 100 percent. It not only looks natural but it feels natural and it also behaves like natural roots would to stimulate ongoing bone regeneration. While crowns and other restorations sometimes need to be replaced after 10 to 15 years, a dental implant is expected to last indefinitely because it gets encased in natural bone. The disadvantage of this treatment, if you could call it that, is that it takes time for the bone to grow around the implant. The final restoration is typically not affixed to the implant until full fusion has occurred, and that can take up to six months. However, due to this fusion, dental implants can be ideal for the replacement of multiple teeth. Dental bridges and dental implants can be used together in this situation.
Your tooth replacement options are better than they’ve ever been. To learn more, schedule a consultation during which you can sit down with Dr. Mahal and get all of your questions answered. Contact our Granite Bay, CA office at 916.800.5001.