Dental Bridge vs. Implant vs. Dentures: What’s Best for Your Teeth?
Nobody’s in a hurry to lose their teeth. But even the most diligent guardian of their dental health faces challenges as time goes on. Periodontal disease, tooth decay, genetic conditions and plain old injury can all take their toll.
The average U.S. adult ages 35-49 has lost seven teeth. By age 50, that average is up to 12. And even though those numbers include wisdom teeth, they still speak to the potential for tooth loss even at a relatively young age.
Regardless of how teeth are lost, it’s well worth the time to explore options for missing tooth replacement – and that as soon as possible. From day one, missing teeth affect one’s speech, eating abilities and physical appearance. And additional complications can arise over time, including:
- Discomfort when chewing
- Inability to chew on both sides, or to eat as quickly as one used to
- Heightened tooth sensitivity
- Teeth grinding
- Shifting of the mouth and facial shape
- Shifting of teeth as bite changes
- Declining jawbone density
Dental implants are widely recognized as the most effective means of replacing lost teeth. A dental implant is surgically installed in the jaw where the natural tooth was once situated, acting as a substitute for the now-missing tooth roots, with an abutment and a brand new crown placed on top. A dental implant can replace a single missing tooth, or missing teeth in multiple areas of the mouth.
Dental Implant Pros
A dental implant acts as a permanent base for a replacement tooth. Because it’s inserted directly into the jaw, it is highly durable and can last for decades, and it works to preserve jawbone and gum tissue in a way other options cannot. On top of that, unlike some other types of tooth replacements, dental implants do not affect nearby teeth. It’s a means of tooth replacement with a very high success rate, and it’s very low-maintenance to boot – no more than the regular brushing, flossing and dental cleanings you should already be practicing.
Dental Implant Cons
Dental implants may be effective, but they aren’t quick. After the implant is installed, it takes months to heal, and the crown can’t go in until the healing process is finished. And it is, after all, a surgical procedure, so it may not be suitable for people with other health problems. Finally, dental implants tend to be more expensive than other means of tooth replacement, though their durability means they may be more cost-effective in the long run.
A dental bridge is a useful tool for replacing multiple teeth in the same area of the mouth. It’s a process by which new teeth are installed in the mouth by attaching them to either a dental implant or natural teeth with screws or dental cement.
Dental Bridge Pros
Dental bridges look and feel natural, and not only can they make the area with missing teeth look better, they can also make the adjacent natural teeth look better. They’re less expensive than individual dental implants, and are easy to brush, however flossing can be more difficult. Tooth-supported dental bridges have the bonus of being easy to replace if something goes wrong, and of being done in a matter of weeks.
Dental Bridge Cons
In addition to not being as long-term as standard dental implants, tooth-supported bridges may require the grinding down of adjacent teeth. Not only can the ground-down material not be replaced, it can also introduce the risk of infection. That risk can also be associated with food getting trapped under the pontic if it’s not cleaned thoroughly enough. Tooth-supported bridges also do not stimulate the bone underneath the bridge the way implants do.
Dentures can be a solution if numerous teeth are missing, and can come in partial and complete varieties depending on the number of teeth that need to be replaced. Dentures are attached to a removable base, which is designed to look like natural gums and held in place by natural teeth or a clasp.
Removable Denture Pros
Dentures are designed to resemble natural gums and teeth, and feel natural as well. They’re easier to repair or replace than bridges or implants, and they’re less expensive, too. Because they’re removable, it’s possible to add more teeth to them later as needed, and they offer a viable option for those whose natural teeth are not strong enough to support a bridge. Full dentures support muscles in the cheeks and lips, creating a more youthful appearance, and they can be adjusted as the jawbone changes shape.
Removable Denture Cons
Dentures require a considerable amount of care: They must be removed and cleaned daily, and must be removed and kept out overnight to allow the mouth to recover. Not only does this add complexity, it also increases the risk that the dentures will be lost or – given how frequently they must be handled – broken. They often take time to get used to as they do not offer the full function of natural teeth. They may also struggle with hard and sticky foods, and the pressure they create may accelerate bone loss in the jaw. That’s in addition to possible effects on ability to taste, eat or speak, particularly for full dentures.
Implant-supported dentures split the difference between standard removable dentures and dental implants, and are helpful for individuals who have experienced bone loss in the jaw. They’re more durable than conventional dentures and have fewer food limitations, and they can be easily removed and cleaned. If built without a palate, they’re also less cumbersome in the mouth. They can be damaged by hard and chewy foods, though, and they require regular maintenance and occasional replacement.
Let Us Help Restore Your Smile
If you have any teeth missing, or you expect to soon – no matter where they may be located in the mouth – Perimeter Dental Group has a solution. Reach out to us today to set up a consultation, so we can figure out the best path forward to getting your smile back.