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.
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.