Bridges vs. Implants: How Are They Different?

Bridges vs. Implants: How Are They Different?

Over 3 in 5 adults in the United States know what it’s like to lose at least one of their permanent teeth. If you’re among this group, you understand just how much a missing tooth can affect your ability to eat normally and smile with confidence.   

Fortunately, there’s a wide range of tooth replacement options that can help you restore oral function, preserve bite alignment, revitalize your smile, and keep your mouth healthy.

As restorative dentists who offer a complete menu of solutions for missing teeth, the team at Smiles in Springfield fields a lot of questions about two of the most popular choices for filling smile gaps: dental implants and bridges

Here’s how these leading dental restorations compare:

What is a dental implant?

Made of biocompatible titanium, a dental implant is an artificial tooth root that’s surgically screwed into the jawbone. The exposed portion of the implant (post) is capped with a porcelain tooth (crown) to create a durable, stable, and long-lasting restoration. 

Just as an implant is fabricated to fit your jawbone, the finishing crown is custom-made to fit your bite and match your natural teeth. The dentists at Smiles in Springfield use advanced CEREC® technology to craft custom porcelain crowns for implants. 

You can get one implant to replace a single missing tooth, or 2-6 implants to replace a partial or full arch of missing teeth. Implants that replace multiple teeth are typically finished with a fixed bridge or removable dentures. 

How is a bridge different? 

Like an implant, a bridge is a dental prosthetic that can be used to replace one or more missing teeth. Unlike an implant, however, a bridge doesn’t require the surgical placement of an artificial tooth root to keep the restoration in place.

Instead, a conventional bridge uses healthy neighboring teeth to keep a replacement tooth, or several replacement teeth, in position. The healthy neighboring teeth are fitted with crowns that essentially anchor the bridge, whether it consists of one artificial tooth or several.  

When a bridge is used to replace a single missing tooth, the prosthetic itself looks like a row of three adjoined teeth. The replacement tooth is situated between two anchoring crowns, which slip over the neighboring teeth as the prosthetic is cemented into place.  

Which option is best for me?

While implants and bridges are both designed to look and function like natural teeth, each comes with its own unique set of advantages and drawbacks. These factors — and how they apply to your personal dental restoration needs — can help you determine which solution is best for you.  

Implant advantages

Because they consist of an artificial tooth and root, implants are the most realistic, stable, and durable dental restoration available. This explains why implants are often referred to as the “gold standard” solution for missing teeth. 

Dental implants have exceptional longevity too — with proper oral health care, they can last for decades. Implants don’t damage or otherwise affect healthy neighboring teeth. They also stimulate bone tissue to keep your jawbone healthy and prevent shrinkage.

Implant drawbacks

Getting a complete implant can take several months depending on how quickly the implant fuses with your bone. It can take even longer if you need an additional procedure like bone grafting to address insufficient jawbone mass before you even receive the implant. 

Implants aren’t a viable solution for anyone whose health prevents them from undergoing a surgical procedure; they also tend to be the most expensive option for those who are eligible. 

Bridge advantages

A bridge is one of the easiest and fastest dental restorations, in that it usually only calls for a couple of visits over the course of a couple of weeks from start to finish. Getting a bridge doesn’t require surgery or other invasive procedures like bone grafting, either.

A fixed dental bridge looks, feels, and functions just like natural teeth, but costs less than comparatively realistic implants. Bridges are also more likely to be covered by insurance than implants.   

Bridge drawbacks

Bridges can last a decade or longer with attentive care, but they typically need to be replaced every 5-7 years to keep your smile looking fresh and natural. That’s because bridges tend to look less natural with age and wear. 

A dental bridge can also damage healthy neighboring teeth, leaving them more prone to tooth decay and cavities.

If you’re ready to fill the gaps in your smile, the dentists at Smiles in Springfield can help. Call 703-634-4239 to schedule an appointment with one of the restorative experts in our Springfield, Virginia, office today. 

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