Living with a missing tooth is not easy! First, a missing tooth ruins your smile and personality; especially when you’re missing a front tooth. Secondly, you will have difficulty eating and digesting food properly, as each tooth has a role to play in breaking food into smaller particles to be more easily absorbed. A missing tooth (or teeth) will make it difficult for you to speak, and pronounce words clearly.
If you have lost one or more of your teeth, we suggest getting them replaced immediately with an artificial one. Replacing missing teeth is not only necessary for restoring your smile and facial aesthetics, but it is equally important for restoring your optimal chewing and speech capability. Currently, the most common options for missing teeth are dental bridges and implants. Both these options carry their own merits and demerits. Let’s look at which tooth replacement option is best for you!
You can watch a video of Dr. Hemmert explaining both processes by clicking this link.
Dental Bridges; What are They?
A dental bridge is fixed prosthesis that is used for replacing one or more missing teeth. For placing a bridge, healthy teeth on both sides of the missing tooth gap are prepared, and crowns are placed over them. These teeth are known as the abutment teeth. For replacing the missing tooth, a crown, also known as the pontic, is placed over the space which is then connected to the abutment teeth on both the sides.
- Advantages of Dental Bridges:
- Fixed Prosthesis – unlike the removable dentures, which need to be taken out of the mouth while sleeping or brushing, dental bridges remain fixed inside the mouth. They also possess better strength and durability than removable dentures.
- Cheaper – when compared with dental implants, bridges are less costly. Therefore, they can be used for missing teeth replacement in cases when a budget is an issue.
- Disadvantages of Dental Bridges:
- Loss of Natural Tooth Structure – for attaching crowns on the abutment teeth present on either side of the missing tooth gap, a layer of enamel needs to be removed. Therefore, dental bridges are less tooth conservative in comparison to dental implants.
- Secondary Caries – if optimal cleaning is not maintained around a bridge, there are high chances of development of teeth cavities (also known as secondary caries) in that region. If these cavities are not immediately restored, bacteria can travel into the underlying dental pulp or the gums and cause severe infection.
- Limited Lifespan – even the highest quality dental bridges have a limited lifespan, despite your best efforts to maintain optimal oral hygiene. In contrast, once an implant has been used to replace a tooth, it tends to serve for a lifetime.
Dental Implants for Replacing Missing Teeth
Nowadays, dental implants are considered as the best option for replacing missing natural teeth. This due to their ability to provide excellent aesthetics, their durability as well as their natural feeling.
What are Dental Implants?
An implant is simply a fixture that is surgically placed inside the jaw bone where a tooth is missing. One embedded inside the bone, they serve as the root component of an artificial tooth. A suitable prosthesis such as a denture, crown or bridge is then attached to the implant to replace the missing tooth. Currently, the most commonly used material for fabrication of dental implant is Titanium alloys. However, implants based on zirconia are also being introduced into the dental industry.
Who can Benefit from Dental Implants?
Dental implants are an ideal tooth replacement option for anyone who needs replacement of one or more missing teeth. However, an essential requirement for placement of the implant is the presence of healthy jaw bone in the region where the implant is to be inserted. If the bone in that region is not sufficient, a bone augmentation surgery needs to be performed before implant insertion.
- Advantages of Dental Implants:
- Excellent Durability – dental implants are fabricated from high-quality materials, which make them sufficiently strong and durable. If you ensure optimal oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly, you can expect your implants to serve for a lifetime.
- Aesthetics – dental implants are perhaps, the most aesthetic tooth replacement option available currently. Highly aesthetic crowns can be attached to the implants, which will not only restore your smile, but your confidence and self-esteem as well.
- Natural Feeling – just like the natural teeth, dental implants are embedded into the jaw bone. Due to this, dental implants look and feel just like your natural teeth, and they won’t cause any discomfort or irritation.
- Eat Anything You Like – dental bridge wearers are advised not to eat hard and sticky foods directly from the bridge, as it can lead to dislodgement. This is not the case with implants because they are firmly anchored in the bone. Therefore, you can enjoy all your favorite foods without having a fear of breaking or dislodging your artificial teeth.
What are the Conditions Where Dental Implants are Not Indicated?
There are certain situations where it is not possible to use dental implants for tooth replacement:
- Poor Density of Jaw Bone – in senior patients, and those who have an underlying bone pathology, the quality or quantity of the jaw bone in the edentulous region is not sufficient to allow for implant placement. However, in these cases, bone augmentation can be performed to restore the density of the alveolar bone.
- Underlying Medical or Dental Pathology – implant placement should also be delayed in patients who are having chronic medical issues such as renal, liver, immunodeficiency problems or tumors. Also, implants should not be placed in cases of active dental pathologies like gingival, periodontal, and alveolar bone infections. Once complete healing has taken place from these infections, placement of implants can then be considered again.
In cases where dental implants cannot be placed, dentists usually opt for tooth replacement with dental bridges, or with the help of removable dentures.
From the above discussion, we can see that dental implants offer more benefits in comparison to the bridges. If you want to enjoy a perfect smile and a set of teeth which give you a “natural” feeling, then Dental Implants are the choice for you! However, your dentist is the best person to guide you about a tooth replacement option that is best for you.