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Bridges versus Implants

By Darlene Oakley HERWriter

Up until about 25 years ago conventional bridges--fixed, removable, partials--were the standard of care for tooth replacement. About 25 years ago, the dental implant was introduced. In the intervening time, titanium implants (sometimes in conjunction with bone grafting) have become the standard of care for tooth replacement. Many people may still wonder why.

There are several reasons.

Tooth Preparation

Conventional bridgework often involves the grinding down of the tooth enamel to place the hardware that will support the bridge. Wherever possible, dentists usually prefer to go with the least-invasive procedure, particularly if the tooth or teeth being replaced are between two "virgin" teeth--that is teeth that have never had any previous dental work on them.

Dental implants, on the other hand, don't require the grinding down of the enamel. The restoration is supported by the dental implants that have integrated with the bone in the jaw. Most dentists will prefer to place dental implants particularly for single tooth restorations and those places where the edentulous (toothless) space is in between virgin teeth.

In some cases, it may be possible to use a combined implant/conventional bridge set up. This may be used where several teeth need to be replaced and there are "non-virgin" teeth on either side of the space. In this instance, there is the option for one or two implants to be placed in the space and the bridge to be anchored on either end by the two "non-virgin" teeth. (There are cost advantages to this as well, which we will look at a little later.)

How Bone Reacts

Many people don't realize how much their jawbone health is predicated on having functioning teeth in place. Those people who have lost their teeth and not replaced them will notice over time that the quality and quantity of bone in that particular site will deteriorate. (Some people are lucky enough not to have too much "resorption," but there is always some.) Even those who opted to go with conventional dentures will experience bone loss over the years.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Add a Comment3 Comments

Marielaina Perrone DDS Blogger

Excellent job. I cannot imagine running my practice today without dental implants.

January 20, 2013 - 5:19pm
CharlotteSal

I feel that you covered the topic very well. I have an implant that I got 10 years ago. It's still in great shape and I have had no issues with it. I wanted to avoid grinding the perfectly healthy tooth next to it and I had concerns with bone loss.

Had I not been working in the dental field, I wouldn't have known about implants. I don't believe every patient gets educated on that sort of surgery. It's an option to be explored when your dentist mentions a bridge.

One thing that I didn't see mentioned in your article was the fact that it is possible that the implant surgery will fail. These pins are left in place for 6 months before a crown is placed and that is to see how well the patients body accepts the titanium pin before they proceed. There is also time needed for healing.

If a patient is planning to get an implant, that is a good thing to know... 6 months is a long time with a gap. If the patient also has orthodontic treatment work done, it's a good idea to have the surgery done during the course of their orthodontic treatment. The orthodontist can help preserve the space for the crown.

October 8, 2009 - 2:22am
Darlene Oakley HERWriter (reply to CharlotteSal)

Since this was a basic comparison between the merits of both treatments, and I had covered the issue of implant failure in a previous implant article, I didn't include it, but that would have been another aspect of comparison to use, as well.

Generally, percentage of success is 95% in the upper and 98% in the lower with implants. Other details can be found in my other implant article: What you need to Know about Dental Implants.

October 8, 2009 - 4:35am
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