Increasingly more people keep their teeth for life. Still, there are many reasons why you might lose a tooth. Aside from tooth decay, sports injuries are the greatest culprit, with accidents and failed root canals also commonly leading to the loss of a tooth.
If you lose one or more teeth, but have otherwise healthy teeth and gums, there are two routes you can take to replace teeth: dental implants and dental bridges. Both offer a sturdy and long lasting prosthetic replacement for your natural tooth, but there are distinct differences in their form and function, as well as the procedure itself.
If you have lost teeth and are considering an implant or dental bridge, contact our Docklands dental office today at (03) 9021-9487 to schedule a consultation and learn more about replacement teeth.
Unlike every other type of dental prosthetic, implants actually provide a life-long, low-maintenance tooth replacement. Natural teeth are comprised of two part: the crown and the root. The implant acts as an artificial tooth root, which stabilises the replacement crown and provides strength when you bite down and chew. Implant-supported crowns look and feel exactly like natural teeth.
An important long-term benefit of implants is that they prevent tooth shift. When a tooth has been lost, the roots of surrounding teeth have a tendency to migrate into the empty space, changing your bite and creating gaps. An implant takes the place of the missing tooth so this cannot occur.
Another effect of losing teeth is bone loss. We think of bones as solid, permanent structures, but our bodies are constantly delivering vital minerals, such as calcium, to create and break down bone tissue. When your body senses a tooth missing, it stops sending those minerals to your jaw, and the bone gradually shrinks. This is why you sometimes see tiny chins on the very old; lost teeth lead to receding jaw bones. With dental implants, the artificial root of a dental implant functions like a natural root, so your body will continue to support the bone tissue in your jaw.
A bridge is an artificial tooth, supported by dental crowns placed over the healthy teeth on either side of the gap. It provides a durable surface for chewing and is not subject to tooth decay (although the roots of your teeth will still be vulnerable). A dental bridge does not prevent the small amount of bone loss that occurs when you lose a tooth, and is subject to wear and tear—giving most bridges a lifespan of approximately 10 years.
Getting a dental bridge requires crowning healthy teeth, so most of the enamel must be removed to make sure the crowns securely attach to the supporting teeth. Some patients do not like the idea of removing enamel from healthy teeth. However, as long as you continue to see a dentist regularly, there’s no reason why the crowns would negatively impact the health of those teeth. Dental bridges also provide a degree of stabilisation for the surrounding teeth, holding them in place so they do not drift into the gap left by the missing root.
Significant Differences: Process and Initial Cost
Both implants and bridges provide a stable replacement for a lost tooth. They allows you to eat and speak naturally and maintain the structure of your original bite. The most significant differences between the two options, however, lies in the procedure.
Dental bridges are the more conservative option, as they do not require invasive surgery or a recovery period. Getting a dental bridge usually requires only two office visits: one to make a dental impression, and another to attach the bridge to the adjacent teeth. No surgery, no recovery period. There is usually a short period of waiting while a dental lab creates your bridge, but a temporary bridge is standard.
A dental implant, however, is a two-phase process. The first step is a surgical procedure to place the implant in the empty socket, where it will slowly fuse with the jaw bone through a process known as osseointegration. This healing process usually takes about three months. Once it has finished, the implant will be a permanent fixture in your jaw, requiring no maintenance, replacement, or upkeep. The second step is attaching a prosthetic crown to the implant, usually made of porcelain—the same materials used for a traditional crown.
The initial cost of a dental implant is significantly higher than that a bridge, which tends to be more affordable due to the simpler procedure. But when you consider the fact that a bridge must be replaced after approximately 10 years, the long-term costs seem closer to the one-time cost of a dental implant.
If you’ve lost one or more teeth, we look forward to helping you find the replacement that fits your lifestyle. Contact our Docklands dental office today at (03) 9021-9487 to schedule a consultation.