A dental implant and a bridge are the immediate treatment options for a missing tooth. Upon the loss of a tooth, the immediate concern for a person is cosmetic embarrassment or loss of function, depending on the position of the lost tooth. Before the advent of dental implants, common options were either a fixed bridge or a removable partial denture. Generally, people prefer the fixed option for ease of hygiene and maintenance. For this reason, a removable partial denture may be less of an option. Dental implants have now become a popular tooth replacement option thanks to their durability and functionality.
The immediate effect of a lost tooth is the loss of bone structure that provides the foundation for that tooth. It can also affect the bone of the neighboring teeth. For this reason, when a tooth is lost or extracted, it is not uncommon for the dentist to recommend grafting the socket or ridge where the tooth is lost. So, dentists recommend that the missing tooth be replaced to prevent complications from shifting of teeth which affects hygiene, gum health, and bite relationships which require more intervention.
A dental bridge utilizes two or more teeth to anchor the bridge that spans the gap left by the missing tooth or teeth. Another solution for a missing tooth is to place a dental implant where the tooth used to be. The implant substitutes the root of the missing tooth, and a crown is built upon the implant to replace the missing tooth.
Both are good options with their respective advantages and disadvantages. The dentist evaluates the patient's risk factors to determine what is the most suitable for the patient whilst taking into account the patient's budgets of time and money, tolerance of the patient for surgery, pre-existing health conditions, and goals and expectations of the patient.
Advantages of a bridge:
Disadvantages of bridge:
Advantages of an implant-supported tooth:
Disadvantages of an implant-supported tooth:
The implant option requires a dentist trained in placing implants and restoring implants. This sometimes requires a surgeon to place the implant and a restorative dentist to have a crown fabricated to fit your implant and your smile. There are dentists who can do both in the same office.
Beneath is a schematic representation of a 3 Unit bridge and an implant-supported crown.
- A 3 Unit Dental bridge
- Single implant supported crown
Either choice is suitable and is not wrong as long as it meets your requirements, and you understand the advantages and disadvantages. Other factors, such as your own biology, risk factors, and parafunctional habits, are those that your dentist will not have much control over. But you, together with your dentist, can make the best choice suitable for you.