As medical technology rapidly progresses, treatment options change, and dental implants vs bridges what once was the conservative route can end up becoming a riskier option. That’s why it’s important to consult your oral surgeon or dentist (and others, if possible) in detail about your treatment options, even if you’re already familiar with the choices presented.
As outlined by the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, this is the case with patients currently choosing to undergo dental implants in Washington, DC. While dental implants were a less common choice in the past, patients are increasingly opting against what once was the more traditional route- bridges- in favor of the dental implants that today are actually a safer bet both cosmetically and financially.
The placement of dental implants is a series of procedures that recreate a missing tooth with a prosthetic tooth that is visually identical to a real tooth, and in many cases stronger. The key component of the implant is a titanium post that resembles a screw, which is fitted to the jaw in the socket of the original tooth.
During the healing process, the titanium implant and the bone it sits in fuse together in a process called osseointegration. The implant is capped with a crown that is an exact replica of the visible portion of the tooth (looking as though that original tooth were a healthy shape and color, of course).
Fixed Dental Bridges
A fixed dental bridge is also a permanent prosthetic tooth. Both implants and bridges have the same advantage cosmetically, as they mask a missing tooth that was damaged, and likely chipped or discolored as a result. However, unlike the implant, the bridge compromises the health of the two teeth to which it’s bound on either side.
Their Impact on Patient’s Dental Health
Although cost and recovery time also differ between the two procedures, the biggest difference between a dental bridge procedure and an implant is that the bridge procedure involves filing two perfectly healthy teeth in order to anchor the prosthetic one between them. This damage to the healthy teeth leaves them more vulnerable to bacteria, plaque, decay, and periodontal disease. For these reasons, fixed bridges usually need to be replaced every seven to 15 years.
In short, the fixed dental bridge is a less expensive, less invasive procedure for the patient than the implant option. It may, however, lead to further expensive and strenuous procedures such as root canals for the surrounding two teeth.
Their Impact on Patient’s Cosmetic Appearance
It should also be noted that in some cases, the damage done to real teeth involved in a bridge procedure eventually results in plaque buildup and the associated discoloration. Plaque stains and variations in color between the real and false teeth can call attention to the area of the dental bridge, making them potentially less effective cosmetic procedures.
In addition, the gumline will remain obviously empty if a bridge is used, causing it to look different than where roots of real teeth are still present. In fact, the absence of a tooth or implant will actually cause the underlying bone to disappear in a natural process called resorption. The titanium implant fills the empty pocket left by a missing tooth, making the gumline appear natural and preserving the underlying bone. Gumline visibility varies from patient to patient to some extent, in many cased the aesthetics are of utmost importance.
Without question, the bridge is the more economical route initially. However, the implant may end up being the more cost-effective treatment option, because it’s less likely to lead to additional surgical procedures down the road and less likely to need to be replaced. In fact, dental implants can last a lifetime.
We urge those patients who qualify for implant procedures to seek medical second opinions in the course of choosing a treatment option. If you are considering a dental implant in Washington, DC, we welcome you to contact us to schedule a consultation and learn more.