A full healthy dentition (or sequence of teeth) is desirable for both function and aesthetics. When a single tooth is congenitally missing or is lost due to trauma or disease, one remedy is to replace it with either a fixed dental bridge or a tooth implant.
A fixed dental bridge, put simply, is a non-removable restoration that “bridges the gap” created when at least one tooth is missing. A dental bridge can achieve a pleasing cosmetic result in a relatively short time. However, it brings some risks, as the artificial tooth needs to be attached to the adjacent natural teeth. As part of this process, the natural teeth need to be filed down to accommodate the bridge. In some cases, this can damage the nerve inside the tooth, resulting in the need for root canal treatment. Also, if not properly designed, the bridge can make it more difficult to maintain optimal oral hygiene, resulting in increased risk of gum disease and decay.
A dental implant, on the other hand, reconstructs a missing tooth over a series of dental visits, providing a highly aesthetic, predictable result. The process starts with the placement of a titanium screw in the jaw. This screw acts as a replacement tooth root, which is the foundation on which the new tooth crown will be placed. In some cases, this can be done straight away, but more often than not the implant is left to integrate with the jaw bone over a number of weeks. As a tooth implant stands alone, the integrity of adjoining teeth isn’t compromised, which is important for long-term oral health.
If a problem develops with an implant, it can be treated on a site-specific basis as it not linked to natural teeth. By contrast, with a fixed dental bridge, a number of teeth may be affected and the whole restoration could fail.
These are just some of the factors that are relevant in deciding which of these two treatment options is appropriate for you. Therefore it is advisable to make an appointment with your dental professional to assess your particular case.