Like all technologies, dental technologies come and go, with newer, more efficient treatments surmounting the old. That’s what’s happening with dental bridges. Once considered state of the art, the use of dental bridges is being pushed to the sidelines as dental implants are increasingly taking center stage.
What’s the difference between bridges and implants? Why are implants taking the lead, and are there exceptions when bridges are preferred over implants?
Dental Bridges: An Overview
Bridges, or fixed partial dentures, as they are sometimes called, typically replace a missing tooth or teeth by permanently attaching the replacements to neighboring teeth. While a relatively costly procedure, as dental practices go, bridges – like implants – offer important health benefits. These include helping people to speak without impediment, supporting the ability to chew and digest food more effectively, and preventing teeth above or below the gap from “erupting” or drifting out of their correct positions.
One of the drawbacks to dental bridges it the sheer amount of “real estate” they take up. That’s because bridges, at their most basic, consist of three parts: two crowns that attach to the two teeth on each side of the gap, and the false tooth (or teeth, in some cases) called a “pontic” or “pontics” that fill or “bridge” the gap.
Another drawback to this procedure is that parts of the healthy neighboring teeth must be removed to make room for the crowns that will hold the pontics in place.
Finally, while it is of course highly important to take proper care of the bridge, the way bridges are made makes it very difficult to do so.
Dental Implants: The Emerging Standard
Unlike the suspension bridge-like approach used in dental bridges, dental implants use prosthetic “roots” to fasten artificial teeth permanently to the jaw. Rather than being fashioned of ceramic, as is frequently the case with bridges and crowns, dental implants are made of substances very similar in texture to bone. This means their appearance and the way they feel in the mouth are very similar to actual teeth.
Because implants do not require a connection to the neighboring teeth, subsequent care is easier than with a crown. This increases the likelihood that good oral hygiene can be practiced and oral health maintained more effectively than with a bridge.
Finally, dental implants generally outperform bridges in terms of longevity, making them the superior long-term solution. That also means that while the procedure may be more costly up front, they typically end up being more economical than dental bridges in the long run.
Exceptions: When are bridges preferred over implants?
There are some instances when – despite all the up sides – it makes more sense to go with a bridge rather than an implant. For example, people who have unhealthy gums or who have insufficient healthy bone to support the attachment of dental implants are often advised to consider a bridge instead.
To learn about other dental technologies, be sure to check out our Dental Resources section.
Do you have a bridge or dental implant? How has it changed your life for the better? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comment section below!