Enjoying Better Dental Checkups

Tired Of Missing Teeth? Should You Have A Dental Implant Or Bridge?

If you've been bothered by a missing tooth for years, you may finally be considering a permanent (or semi-permanent) replacement. While dental implants can help create a tooth that looks and feels nearly identical to your natural tooth (and requires no nightly removal or cleaning), you may wonder whether it's worth investing in this option and the associated surgical procedure if a bridge or partial denture would do the job just as effectively. How can you decide which option is best for your long-term dental health? Read on for some factors you may want to consider when deciding on a dental implant, dental bridge, or other tooth replacement option.

When is a dental implant the best option?

Dental implants are the longest-term and most permanent tooth replacement option. Unlike bridges and dentures, which consist of false teeth anchored to your existing teeth (or gums) with a sticky paste, dental implants are made by inserting a threaded titanium post into your jawbone and screwing a ceramic or porcelain crown onto this post. The resulting implant looks and behaves just like a natural tooth but with no risk of decay. 

You may want to choose a dental implant if you have only a single missing tooth or if this tooth is in a visible location. Dental implants are also a good option for molars -- because the titanium anchor post should eventually integrate itself into your jawbone, a molar implant should have more than enough strength to handle the pressure many foods can put on your back teeth. And while dental implants don't last forever, the titanium post should be a lifetime investment; you'll need only to have a new crown made every 10 to 15 years. 

When should you have a dental bridge instead? 

If you're dealing with chronic medical conditions like diabetes or congestive heart failure (CHF), your dentist or oral surgeon may decide you're not an ideal candidate for dental implant surgery. Although the operation to implant the anchor post is relatively non-invasive, the success of the procedure requires quick healing -- and these conditions can damage the delicate blood vessels that carry oxygen to your tissues, promoting healing and new cell growth. Those with osteoporosis may also find that their jawbone density isn't sufficient to allow a titanium post to fully integrate. Undergoing implant surgery while dealing with certain medical conditions could lead to future issues with your implant or even cause your body to reject the titanium post. For those with major or long-term health issues, a dental bridge is likely the more appropriate choice.

Dental bridges are also ideal for a large section of missing teeth, as it's much more cost-effective to have a bridge cast and fitted than to pay for multiple dental implants. Because you'll be able to remove and clean this bridge each night, you'll also have better access to the surrounding teeth to make brushing and flossing easier.

What if neither a dental bridge or an implant is a workable option?

Because a dental bridge is anchored to the surrounding teeth, this is only a workable option if your teeth adjacent to the missing one(s) are in good shape. Teeth that have already been weakened by multiple cavities or a root canal may not be ideal anchors and could ultimately require extraction and the use of a larger dental bridge. If you've found yourself in this situation, a partial denture may help you replace your missing tooth without impacting those around it. Rather than anchoring itself to surrounding teeth, a partial denture has a flat "lip" that affixes itself to the roof of your mouth or the area beneath your tongue. This partial denture is similar to a bridge in all other respects, including the removal and cleaning process.

For more info on the best option for replacing your missing teeth, contact your local dentist.