Implant versus bridge for a single tooth replacement

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Specialist Prosthodontist
Prosthodontic Care
BDS (Rand), MDent (Pros)

Almost everyone looking to replace a missing tooth wants to know “What is better for me? A dental implant or a dental bridge?”

First, it’s useful to understand exactly what each of these involves. A tooth implant consists of a dental implant crown and a dental implant abutment (supporting structure), whereas a dental bridge consists of two dental crowns and one dental pontic (the dummy tooth that replaces the missing tooth).

The choice between a tooth implant and a bridge depends on your unique situation.

The primary consideration is the condition of the teeth adjacent to the gap. If the surrounding teeth are in good condition, then an implant is probably the way to go. However, if the adjacent teeth are in poor condition, heavily filled, with poor cosmetics (for example, those big black metal fillings), then these teeth would probably need crowning anyway. In such cases it is a no brainer to go for the dental bridge.

dental implant

Another consideration is how long the tooth has been missing. Is the gap due to a recent extraction or has it been there for a while? A recent extraction site needs to heal for several weeks before a dental implant or a dental bridge can be placed. This is because the gum will shrink as it heals, and premature placement would affect the aesthetics of the end result. If the gap has been there for a while, it is just the condition of the adjacent teeth that will govern the choice between implant and bridge.

If your extraction is recent and is at the front of your mouth, making the gap obvious when you speak or smile, then a temporary replacement can be fitted while the gum heals. However, a temporary denture is not as comfortable as a temporary bridge, so a dental bridge might be the better ultimate choice. If the gap is at the back of the mouth, again it is just the condition of the adjacent teeth that will determine the appropriate means of tooth replacement.

Another question often posed is “What is the difference in cost between a dental implant and a dental bridge?” There is actually very little price difference between the two options, with implants sometimes being slightly more costly. A dental implant requires adequate bone. If this is absent, then bone grafting may be required – and that can make the cost several hundred dollars higher (as well as possibly extending treatment time from four months to seven months).

As you can see, several factors come into play in deciding which is better for you – a dental implant or a dental bridge. You can rely on the advice of your dentist or specialist prosthodontist, who will happily discuss with you the appropriate solution in your particular case.

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