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According to the National Library of Medicine, it’s estimated that around 69% of Americans between 35 and 44 have lost at least one tooth.

By age 74, 26% of the population loses all of their adult teeth. When you lose a single tooth, your oral health becomes compromised to the point that your other teeth are at risk. It’s important to replace the missing tooth with a fake one in order to keep the rest of them properly aligned.

There are typically two ways to do this. Enter the tooth bridge vs. implant debate. Both of these forms of restorative dentistry can help you avoid long-term dental issues and maintain your ability to eat and speak normally. 

Which procedure is best for you will depend on your situation and oral health. Today, we’ll look at the main differences between a dental bridge and a dental implant to help you figure out how to maintain healthy teeth now and in the future. 

What Is a Dental Bridge

When you get a dental bridge, the false tooth (or teeth) is attached to the healthy teeth on either side, thus bridging the gap between them. In a scenario where there’s one tooth missing, you’ll likely have caps that go over the two surrounding healthy teeth with the false tooth in the middle.

Often, this procedure requires some alteration, such as filing down the surrounding teeth so the caps fit and support the bridge. It’s a relatively simple procedure with a quick recovery time because your dentist isn’t replacing the tooth root. 

If there are multiple missing teeth, the dentist may use what’s called a “cantilevered bridge.” This attaches to a tooth on one side, letting the bridge hang over the gap instead.

What Is a Dental Implant?

A dental implant aims to replace the root of your original tooth. The implant is anchored in place with a piece of titanium that looks like a screw, which then fuses to the jawbone in a process called “osseointegration.”

Over a period of around 6 months, the implant gradually becomes more and more stable. Once the dentist declares that osseointegration is complete, the protective cover originally on the screw is replaced with a crown.

The gums grow around the temporary crown, but when this process is complete, the procedure is finished by replacing the temporary crown with a permanent one. Dental implants are more invasive and the process takes longer, but it gives you a more stable implant that integrates with the bone, ligaments, and nerves.

Tooth Bridge vs. Implant: Which Should You Choose?

You may be wondering which restorative dentistry procedure you should choose given your dental situation. Both procedures have certain eligibility requirements that must be met, so some of the decision-making process is out of your hands. 

The first thing to do is see your dentist for a consultation. For implants, you may need to undergo a CT scan that determines whether your bone quality and density can support them. For example, dental implants aren’t usually administered to active smokers and those with periodontal disease may need further treatment before getting implants.

Dental bridges have less stringent requirements because the process isn’t as invasive. The main thing your dentist will want to see is whether the surrounding teeth are healthy enough to support the bridge.

If you’re eligible for both, you may want to know what the pros and cons of each are before deciding on one procedure over the other.

Dental Bridge Pros and Cons

The biggest advantage of dental bridges is cost. They’re the cheapest and easiest way to replace missing teeth. It doesn’t require any bone grafting and the process is over within a few weeks.

In terms of cons, bridges tend to put strain on the surrounding teeth. With cantilevered bridges, the strain on the single tooth is even more significant.

If there are any underlying structural issues in your mouth, a bridge won’t solve them. Because of these factors, a tooth bridge isn’t considered a permanent solution to tooth loss.

Dental Implant Pros and Cons

Unlike dental bridges, a quality implant can last a lifetime. They don’t place much strain on the surrounding teeth because implants are anchored to the jawbone as if it were a normal tooth. They also promote healing of both the bone structure and the gums, promoting long-term oral health.

Unfortunately, dental implants can be expensive. A cheap implant procedure may cost $1,000, while a more expensive one can cost several thousand dollars. A full mouth of implants might cost about $50,000.

As mentioned earlier, implants can feel invasive. You may need several trips to the dentist and the healing process can take many months. You’ll be rewarded with healthy teeth in the end, but many patients find the process daunting.

Other Factors

There are a few factors your dentist will consider when suggesting a tooth bridge vs. an implant. Cost is likely the main factor. If you don’t have dental insurance, it’s probably better for you to get a bridge.

Your overall health is another factor. Implants require dental surgery, so if you’re not in good shape to handle surgery, you shouldn’t get dental implants. 

The last factor is time. Are you able to stick to the long-term schedule that implants require? If you aren’t able or willing to return for appointments on a semi-regular basis, implants probably aren’t the best choice for you.

Finding the Right Dentist for Your Oral Health

Now that you understand the main differences between a tooth bridge and an implant, it’s time to find the right dentist to help. Your oral health is dependent on the care that you receive, so you should always do your due diligence when selecting a dentist.

For those in Columbia, SC, Lockheart Dental is the right choice. Whether you need a routine cleaning or you’re trying to decide between a tooth bridge vs. implant procedure, our top-quality dental care for adults and children can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and get your oral health properly taken care of.