Replacing missing tooth: Dental Bridge or Dental Implant?

If you’re missing one or more teeth, you may be all too aware of their importance to your looks and dental health. Your teeth are designed to help you chew, speak and smile. When teeth are missing, it is difficult to do these things. Even the loss of a back tooth may cause your teeth to shift and your face to look older. Fortunately, missing teeth can be replaced.

1. Implants

Many patients choose implants to replace a single tooth, several teeth, or to support a full set of dentures. Implants are posts that are surgically placed in the upper or lower jaw, where they function as a sturdy anchor for replacement teeth. They are made of titanium (a strong, lightweight metal) and other materials that are accepted by the human body.

Most patients find that an implant is secure and stable – a good replacement for their own teeth.

However, implants are not an option for everyone. Because implants require surgery, patients should be in good health overall. Patients either must have adequate bone to support the implant, or be able to have surgery to build up the area needing the implant. Patients also should be ready to commit to a daily oral care routine and to regular dental visits.

Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, may cause slow healing after surgery

Chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or leukemia, may slow healing after surgery. Patients with these issues may not be good candidates for implants. Using tobacco can also slow healing. Your dentist can help you decide whether implant treatment is a good option for you.

What’s involved?

There are many different kinds of implants. Treatment can take only one day, or it can take several months, or somewhere in between. Your dentist can outline a treatment plan that is most likely to be successful for you.

There are three general phrases of implant treatment:

  1. Placement of the implant: The dentist surgically places the implant into the jawbone. There may be some swelling and/or tenderness after surgery, so pain medication is usually prescribed to ease the discomfort. Your dentist may recommend a diet of soft foods during the healing process.
  2. The healing process: What makes an implant so strong is that the bone actually grows around it and holds it in place. This process takes time. Some patients might need to wait until the implant is completely healed, up to several months, before replacement teeth can be attached to the implant. Other patients can have the implants and replacement teeth placed all in one visit.
  3. Replacing your missing tooth or teeth (prosthesis): The dentist or a lab will custom-make a crown, bridge or dentures to fit your mouth and your implants. Once completed, the man-made teeth are attached to the implant posts.

The prosthesis usually takes some time to make. In the meantime, your dentist may give you a temporary crown, bridge or denture. This can help you eat and speak normally until the permanent replacement is ready.

Advantages of Implants:

  • An implant is most similar to a natural tooth

The structure of dental implant is similar to natural tooth, which helps it functions excellently

  • Nearby teeth do not have to be involved in the placement procedure
  • Implants may last for many years, even decades
  • Some types of implants and artificial teeth or dentures can be placed in just one or two visits
  • Implants may help prevent shrinkage of the jawbone from tooth loss

Shrinkage of jawbone from tooth loss can be prevented thanks to Implant


  • Implants are not right for everyone, since they require surgery
  • Implant placement may take longer and may require more dental visits than other options
  • Implants may cost more than other treatments

2. Fixed bridges

Another tooth replacement option is a fixed bridge. This is a restoration that fills the space where one or more teeth have been lost. A fixed bridge is bonded or cemented into place – only a dentist can remove it

How is a bridge placed?

Placing a bridge usually takes more than one dental visit. On your first visit, your dentist prepares the teeth on either side of the gap. The bridge will later be attached to these teeth

Your dentist then takes an impression of your teeth and the space and sends the impression to a dental laboratory. Technicians at the lab make the bridge out of metal, ceramics, glass-ceramics or a combination. Your dentist will place a temporary bridge to protect your exposed teeth while you are waiting for the permanent one

When talking about bridges, your dentist may use these terms:

  • Pontic: The replacement for your missing tooth
  • Crown: a “cap” that covers the attachment tooth

During one or more follow-up visits, the bridge is fitted, adjusted and cemented in place.

Bridge Placement

  1. Before the bridge, teeth are shown with the space where a tooth has been lost
  2. Teeth next to the gaps are prepared for placement of the bridge
  3. The custom-made bridge is placed over the prepared teeth
  4. The bridge is cemented into place

Advantages of fixed bridges:

  • Look, feel and function like natural teeth
  • Don’t require removal for cleaning
  • Cost less than implants


  • Likely to be more expensive than removable bridges
  • Affect the teeth next to the bridge
  • May require extra effort to clean under the pontic

Reference: ADA

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Replacing missing tooth: Dental Bridge or Dental Implant? was last modified: March 16th, 2018 by thanh

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