If you’re missing a tooth, you may be debating a tooth implant vs bridge as a form of tooth replacement. At Scott Street Dental we believe that being fully informed is the only way to help you reach a decision that’s right for you, which is why we’ve put together a quick guide on both treatments.

Getting an implant or a bridge may depend on your oral health

While both an implant and a bridge fill the gap left by a missing tooth and restore your smile, they are two very different tooth replacement options. An implant requires oral surgery and a good density of bone whereas a bridge is relatively less invasive and quicker. Let’s start by looking at the two procedures in more detail.

What is a tooth implant?

A natural tooth is made up of two parts: the crown which is visible in your mouth and the root which sits in the jawbone. An implant has a similar structure in that a titanium implant post is surgically placed into the bone to replace the natural tooth root. Over the period of a few months the surrounding bone fuses with the implant to become a permanent structure in the mouth. At this point it’s then topped with a dental crown to complete the restoration.

To be a suitable candidate for a dental implant you need to be relatively healthy and have good oral health. People who smoke or have medical conditions such as diabetes or leukaemia face a greater risk of implant failure because the healing process is longer and sometimes doesn’t happen at all. That said, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have dental implants but it’s something you need to disclose to your dentist at your initial implant consultation.

What is a tooth bridge?

A bridge consists of two crowns which cover the two teeth at either end of the gap where the missing tooth once was (abutment teeth) and are used to anchor a pontic or false tooth which literally bridges the gap. Unlike an implant, however, the false tooth sits on top of the jawbone.

Now you know the difference between a tooth implant and a bridge let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each treatment.

Benefits of a tooth implant

The biggest benefit of an implant is that unlike a bridge it helps prevent the bone loss which occurs when a tooth is missing and prevents jaw shrinkage. Because the implant is located inside the bone like a natural tooth root, the bone is stimulated every time you bite and chew food. This helps keep the bone healthy and alive. Some of the other benefits of dental implants include:

  • An implant looks and functions just like a natural tooth. In fact, many of our patients have said it feels just as if they never lost a tooth in the first place.
  • Provided you care for your implant properly it can last for many years, even decades.
  • When you have a dental implant, you can eat any foods that you would normally eat with your natural teeth, including crunchy vegetables and lean steaks.
  • Tooth implants are cared for in just the same way as your natural teeth with daily brushing and flossing.
  • Unlike a bridge, which requires healthy teeth to be shaped to fit crowns, a dental implant is a stand-alone treatment which doesn’t rely on adjacent teeth for support.

Disadvantages of tooth implants

  • An implant involves several stages and takes time to complete – anywhere from 3 to 6 months depending on the individual.
  • Dental implants require surgery and while the procedure is relatively straightforward, all surgery comes with risk.

Benefits of a bridge

  • Bridges typically takes less time from start to finish and can often be completed in less than 4 weeks.
  • The cost of a bridge is often cheaper than for a tooth implant, particularly if you need a sinus lift or a bone augmentation

Disadvantages of a bridge

  • A bridge is not as natural feeling or as aesthetically pleasing as a tooth implant
  • Preparing the abutment teeth to fit dental crowns can compromise what are otherwise healthy teeth, leaving them susceptible to decay in the future
  • A bridge requires more attention to keep it healthy and clean. You may need specialised floss to protect against the build-up of plaque
  • Your bridge may need replacing due to wear and tear or decay on the supporting teeth. Typically, a patient may need a new bridge in as little as 7 years.

Which should I pick?

Everyone one is different with their own unique dental needs so it’s always a good idea to visit your dentist to discuss the best options with them to replace your missing tooth. If you’d like to find out whether you’re best suited to an implant or a bridge, why not give Scott Street Dental a call today on (02) 9158 6313 to book an appointment?