When should you have a dental implant and when should you have a dental bridge?
Because the placement of a dental implant involves surgery into the bone, people may be tempted to think that it is a more aggressive treatment than placing a bridge that is merely anchored to the teeth. But since placing the dental implant involves no alteration of existing natural teeth, it is actually the more conservative treatment, and is becoming more preferred as more time goes on and dentists and their patients become used to implants as a treatment option.
Advantages of a dental bridge:
- It is faster. It can be placed in two appointments. How far apart those appointments are depends on how quickly the laboratory work is done.
- Almost any dentist can do it. The techniques for placing a bridge are taught in dental school as part of the basic curriculum. Patients wanting implants, however, need to be cautious—some dentists who claim to have enough skill and training to adequately place dental implants really don’t, resulting in some serious problems. The incorrect placement of dental implants is the subject of more dental malpractice lawsuits than any other area of dentistry.
Advantages of a dental implant:
- The adjacent teeth don’t have to be ground down for crowns. If the adjacent teeth need crowns anyway, this is less of a factor.
- It is generally more comfortable. Bridges can tend to catch food particles underneath them, which can be annoying.
- Maintenance is less complicated, both personal at-home maintenance and professional maintenance. To be cleaned adequately involves flossing, and to floss around a bridge requires threading the floss under the bridge—you can’t just snap the floss between the teeth as you would do everywhere else in your mouth.
- If there is later a problem with any of the teeth involved in the bridge, you usually have to get a complete new bridge, which involves at least three teeth. With a dental implant, you just have to treat the one tooth.
- A bridge stresses the adjacent teeth. While some teeth are very strong, for others the stress of a bridge can eventually cause their loss.