Dental Implants vs. Bridges for Replacing Missing Teeth
In a practice that deals honestly with failing root canal treated teeth, and subsequent extraction of the failed root canal treated tooth, we are often confronted with the problem of how to replace a missing tooth. As a matter of fact, one of the most common questions that patients ask is, “What is the best choice to replace my missing tooth?” For fixed options, meaning something that is not removable but stays in the mouth, the options are a dental implant or a fixed partial bridge.
A dental implant is basically a post that goes into the bone to replace the missing root of the tooth. Once the bone around the implant has healed, a crown is placed on the implant to replace the missing tooth. The result is a permanent restoration that looks, feels, and acts very similar to a real tooth.
A fixed partial bridge is made of three or more crowns that are actually connected together. For example, if a patient has space where a tooth used to be, the existing tooth behind the space will have a crown, the existing tooth in front of the space will have a crown, and a crown will connect these two crowns in the center. This explains why it is called a bridge. Imagine a bridge crossing a stream. A post is on either side of the stream. A bridge connects to a post on one side, crosses the stream, and connects to the post on the other side. In the mouth, teeth serve as the “posts”, and the “bridge” portion is actually another crown. This crown in the middle replaces the missing tooth.
There are benefits and risks to both procedures. The benefit of the dental implant and crown is that no other teeth are involved. Therefore, the teeth on either side of the missing tooth do not have to be shaped to have a crown placed on them. This is a big deal if these teeth are virgin teeth, having never been touched by decay or a filling. Only God can make enamel. Once it has been removed to make room for a crown, it will never grow back. Because of this, dental implants are a much more conservative approach when considering the health of the surrounding teeth. Implants also function most closely to a natural tooth. The risk of having an implant is that it has to be kept clean. It cannot decay like a tooth, but it can have a periodontal disease like a tooth. Called peri-implantitis, the resultant destruction of the surrounding bone can cause loss of the dental implant. The good news is that proper home care techniques and regular dental visits with our amazing hygienist, Kristen, can prevent this from happening.
The benefit of having a bridge is that sometimes the teeth on both sides of a missing tooth can benefit from having crown coverage. If the teeth are severely broken down or decayed, chances are crowns would strengthen these teeth. Therefore, a bridge would not only address the problem of the broken down teeth but also add a tooth in the space of the missing tooth. Win-win! The risk of having a bridge is that it can be challenging to keep clean. It is very important to clean beneath the bridge, or decay can occur on the abutment teeth. If this occurs, the bridge has to be removed, the decay addressed, and a new bridge placed.
At Origin Dental Wellness, we have honest conversations every day about options and what might be best for each individual patient. We understand that what may be a good choice for one, may not fit for the other. Once the risks and benefits have been discussed, the patient makes the decision of what he or she prefers. We love serving well-informed patients who know in their gut they are doing the right thing for themselves. We consider it an honor to be able to walk the journey of health with our patients. Replacing missing teeth is a vital component of that health, whether that be with a dental implant or a fixed bridge.