Is a Bridge better than an implant? Review the Trade-offs
With a missing tooth, patients are typically presented with two different dental treatments to repair the problem: a bridge or an implant. Many patients will ask, "Is a bridge better than an implant?" This is a loaded question that has pros and cons on both sides. Most dentists will have a strong opinion in one direction or another and this is often effective at swaying the patient to a certain way of thinking as well. Below are the facts that any dental patient facing that highly debated question – is a bridge better than an implant – will need to know.
First, it's important to understand what each option is exactly. A bridge is a piece of dental work that is attached to two healthy teeth on either side of the gap. These teeth must be reshaped to support the bridge. An implant is a titanium root that is inserted into the jaw bone. This is topped with an abutment and a crown that is shaped like the missing tooth.
Evaluating the Bridge
Though many dentists will automatically recommend an implant, there are some benefits to choosing the bridge. How is a bridge better than an implant? Here are the pros for a bridge:
- It is a quick procedure that usually takes one visit
- It is much more affordable than an implant
- Most dental insurance companies will pay for all, or at least some of it
The cons for a bridge are:
- It is difficult to floss around and may have a negative impact on oral hygiene
- It has a lifespan of about 10 years and could need to be replaced
- It requires two healthy teeth to be damaged to support it
Evaluating the Implant
The implant is quickly growing in popularity. Here is why many people argue against the idea of a bridge being better than an implant. The pros of an implant include the following:
- The replacement tooth is a permanent fixture in the mouth that will last a lifetime
- The implant is easy to floss around, acting like a real tooth
- The jaw bone is stimulated by the implant so it will not deteriorate
Cons for the implant are:
- The procedure is very lengthy and often requires the patient to wear a temporary "flipper" between the time the root is implanted and the time the crown can be added
- The root can take several weeks to heal and may be painful or tender
- Implants are expensive and are not typically covered by insurance
Is a Bridge Better than an Implant?
This is ultimately an unanswerable question. In each case, it will depend largely upon the patient's individual situation. In cases where the tooth has fallen out as a result of periodontal disease, an implant may not even be possible. If the jaw bone has already decayed, a bridge is the only option. To answer this lingering question, patients must examine their needs, their comfort level, and their budget. The final choice will always be a personal one.