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By Dr. Miles Madison, DDS
Dental implants and bridges are among the many corrective options for patients who have lost a tooth. However, there are pros and cons to each treatment that patients should think about before undergoing any procedure. As with any dental therapy, though, a good dentist or surgeon is essential. Surgical procedures are not ‘one size fits all’ solutions and having the right surgeon can mean the difference between a successful or failed treatment.
A dental bridge is a custom made appliance that can replace one to four teeth. The bridge is secured in place by using the teeth an either side of a missing tooth. The teeth are ground down so that a bridge can fit over them. Bridges can only be done if the adjacent teeth are healthy, and have good bone support. Bridges also require that a tooth be present on both sides of the space created by the missing tooth to support the bridge itself. The procedure usually takes about two to three visits to complete.
Bridges have served dentistry well over the years. They can look very natural, and as mentioned before can be completed in two or three appointments.
The biggest drawback is that the natural teeth next o the missing tooth have to be ground down. This removes the enamel the hard protective layer of the teeth, and can potentially expose the teeth to further problems down the line. The next draw back is that the bridge essentially splints the teeth together, which makes it very difficult o floss and clean the teeth. Because of this the bridged teeth often decay over time, which necessitates redoing the bridge, every 5 to years. Lastly, bridges do not stimulate the jaw bone the way natural teeth or dental implants do, so in the area of the missing tooth the jaw bone will continue to shrink, which sometimes leaves unsightly gaps.
A dental implant is a root shaped fixture that is inserted in the jaw bone in the area of the missing tooth. It does not involve grinding the neighboring teeth. It can replace multiple missing teeth, and does not require that teeth be present on either side of it. Implants are often restored individually and are not splinted together or to other teeth.
Implants do note require grinding down of any teeth. Implants stimulate the jaw bone just like natural teeth do, which contributes to long-term integrity of the jaw bone. Implants are natural looking when done, and usually do not require replacement. Because implants are usually not splinted together, flossing and cleanings are much easier that bridges. Implants do not decay.
Implants are a surgical procedure, so special expertise is required for placing them. Implants can have complications in healing, but this is rare (about 2 to 5% only which makes them one of the most predictable medical procedures done). The initial cost can be high, but are cost efficient in the long run since they do not have to be replaced.
Dental implants are easier to maintain than bridges. Bridges make it more difficult to floss properly, whereas dental implants act just like natural teeth. Bridges are also more likely to experience tooth decay where the edges of the crown meets the tooth. Statistics show that 1 in 10 fixed bridges experience significant decay in 10 years. Within 15 years, 35% of fixed bridges experience decay. But, with dental implants, you can floss, brush, and maintain your oral hygiene like you would your regular teeth.
Dental implant materials are built to last and are considered lifetime investments. In contrast, fixed bridges often need to be replaced after 10 years. Dental implants are anchored directly to the bone and become a permanent part of it. Bridges are only as strong as the teeth around them, and in fact can weaken them over time.
Bridges are less expensive, initially, than dental implants. However, bridges are not meant to last a lifetime whereas dental implants are. Bridges often require maintenance after 10-15 years, adding to increased costs. Dental implants, however, are meant to look and function just like real teeth for a lifetime. They are also more aesthetically pleasing, being indistinguishable from natural teeth.
Although bridges are less expensive, initially, than dental implants, they are not the best option in terms of oral hygiene, aesthetics, maintenance, and overall dental health. Dental implants support the jaw, do not require cutting the adjacent teeth, and look just like regular teeth. All these factors taken together make it clear that dental implants are the best option for a lifetime of good oral health.
About the Author: Los Angeles dentist Dr. Miles Madison, DDS, specializes in dental implants, gum grafts, crown lengthening, sinus augmentation, and more. For more information, please contact Dr. Madison at (310) 553-2940 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. See
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