Both dental bridges and dental implants are suitable to replace missing teeth in the mouth.
The replacement tooth using the surrounding teeth for support and anchorage can be fixed like a bridge in a dental bridge. The bridge is cemented firmly to the supporting anchorage teeth, and so it stays on the teeth as if it is part of the natural teeth. The advantage of dental bridges is the simplicity of treatment procedures. They do not require a long waiting time, usually four to six months, for the implants to integrate into the jaw bone after surgical implant placements. However, a dental bridge can be done in a week with only two office visits in most cases. Like anything in this world, there are disadvantages associated with dental bridges. The two anchor teeth on both sides must be reduced and shaved down to receive the bridge properly. The two supporting teeth need to remain healthy for the bridge to stay solid and functional. Because a dental bridge splints the supporting teeth together, making daily cleaning more demanding and challenging underneath the bridges.
An implant-supported replacement tooth will not need to rely on the adjacent teeth for any support because it does not attach to the other teeth at all, which is one of the advantages of an independently self-supporting structure. The additional advantage would be the embedded implant will maintain the quality and quantity of the surrounding jaw bone – so that the bone would not shrink. The disadvantages of implants are the surgical procedure to place the implants in the jaw bone and the time needed to integrate the implants fully. Placing an implant with a crown attached to it can be more expensive than a dental bridge.
In some circumstances, a bridge cannot be considered a suitable treatment. Those circumstances include:
- The teeth surrounding the missing tooth/teeth are not healthy, like abscess teeth, teeth with gum disease, grossly decayed teeth, mobile teeth, and short supporting roots.
- There are only teeth on one side of the space but no teeth on the other side.
- There are too many missing teeth to be replaced with a bridge. Especially the molars are the missing teeth.
In those circumstances, implants supported teeth can be considered to replace the missing teeth. However, certain cases make implants more challenging when there is not enough jaw bone to place an implant into. With the technology we have, we can use different techniques to increase the size and quality of bone. The techniques include:
- Guided bone regeneration – using hard tissues from the patient or cadaver to increase the amount of bone in the site where the implant is going to be placed
- Sinus lift – when the sinus floor is low and therefore the amount of bone is thin, and this technique will increase the thickness of the bone.
- Socket preservation – a technique that bone is placed into the socket of the tooth just got removed to help the bone fill in the socket and prevent resorption of the remaining bone surrounding the socket.
- Emdogain – it is an enamel matrix derivative. “This mixture of natural proteins can induce biological processes that usually take place during the development of the periodontium and may stimulate certain cells involved in the healing process of soft and hard tissues.”
The different options have their merits and cons. You will need to consult with your dentist to find out which one is the most suitable for you to replace your missing teeth.