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Dental Implants vs. Bridges: What You Need to Know Before Making a Decision

Nurse showing dental bridges

Tooth loss is not uncommon. In fact, it is extremely likely that most adults will lose one or more teeth during their lifetime. The are many reasons for which an adult might lose one or more teeth. Some of the likely situations that may cause tooth loss include:

  • A deep cavity causing such severe decay that the damage is irreversible.
  • A failed root canal where the damage to the tooth is too severe to support a crown.
  • Severe gum disease where inflammation weakens the gum structure and tissue enough to make it impossible for the gums to support teeth. According to Mouth Healthy, a patient-centered website of the American Dental Association, one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults is gum disease.
  • Any situation where one or more teeth sustain significant enough damage to necessitate extraction.
  • Medical conditions (illnesses that affect the immune system or diabetes,) that increase your risk of developing oral infections that if not treated, may spread through the gum tissue and beyond.

Failure to deal with the situation that caused tooth loss promptly inevitably leads to a cascade of negative consequences. The longer you put off addressing a solution, the more challenging and expensive your restorative procedure becomes.

How Your Mouth Reacts to Tooth Loss

A lost tooth or loss of several teeth causes the teeth that surround the empty area to shift or tilt toward the vacant space. Over time, the teeth that moved weaken and become less stable. Individuals who lose teeth may not know that their bite is improperly aligned until they feel it when they’re trying to chew.

The strength of our jawbone is dependent on the stimulation it gets from chewing. When tooth loss prevents an area of the jaw from getting stimulation from eating, it shrinks through a slow process known as “resorption.” That lost bone can’t regenerate itself. Bone grafting can replace the lost bone, but it can’t restore the gum and tissue structure to the healthy condition they were in before tooth loss.

Dental Bridges and Implants: What They Are and How They Differ

What is a Dental Bridge?

A bridge is a permanent prosthetic dental device. It is cemented to existing teeth in the same way that a crown is after a root canal, or it the crown can cover the implant pin. In both cases, crowns will fill the exposed space after tooth extractions.

We’ll take impressions of your bite before the teeth are extracted to make sure that the crowns we make match your teeth and bite pattern. This model of your mouth structure is necessary for both a traditional bridge and an implant-supported bridge.

With a standard bridge, we will use at least two of your existing teeth as the anchors that connect the replacement crowns, creating a permanent bridge between point A and point B. A bridge is a better alternative than a partial denture for people who have missing teeth. A traditional bridge is only viable if you have two healthy teeth that can anchor the filled crowns that will fill the exposed area of your mouth. A bridge that’s supported by existing teeth won’t last indefinitely.

Sometimes a surgical extraction will complicate things, making it inadvisable or impractical to attach a bridge to existing teeth. If a lot of time passes between the point at which you had teeth removed and your decision to come into the office to discuss your tooth replacement options, the part of your jawbone that anchored those teeth may have shrunken to the point where it can’t support the implants. In this case, you’ll probably need surgery to augment your jawbone and rebuild the bone structure to give it the strength it will need to accept the implants and support the bridge. Bone grafting, a sinus lift or a ridge expansion are bone augmentation procedures that rebuild your jawbone, so it’s strong enough to accept the implants.

What is a Dental Implant?

dental implant is a titanium pin that’s inserted into the jawbone. After implantation, the bone and gum tissue secure the pin, giving it more strength than your existing teeth. Before covering the implant with the crown, an abutment goes over the pin, providing a secure connection that gives your implant-supported bridge more strength than your real teeth.

Think of prosthetic dental devices as an investment in your long-term health, your self-esteem, and your self-confidence. While it’s tempting to use the cost as a deciding factor, the upfront cost of a bridge is very misleading.

A bridge that’s supported by existing teeth is not a permanent solution. Eventually, the anchor teeth that support the bridge will weaken because of the stress they’ve had to endure. When that happens, those teeth will start to hurt, which is almost always an indication of infection.

A severe bacterial infection can cause excruciating pain and swelling, so don’t put off seeing a doctor. The cost of removing the bridge, extracting those teeth and replacing the bridge with implants will far exceed the cost of implants, had you opted for that in the first place.

Choosing The Best Option

Call the Briglia Dental Group at (610) 615 0160 to schedule an appointment to learn about dental bridges and implants and discuss the best cosmetic dentistry options for you. We’re eager to help you find a solution that will give you back your smile, allow you to eat the foods you love, and most of all, make sure you have a healthy mouth. You can’t have a healthy body without good oral health.

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