Dental Bridges: Why Choose a Dental Bridge Over a Dental Implant?
A dental bridge typically consist of two or more specially fitted crowns that are placed on the abutment or anchoring teeth on either side of the space formed by your missing tooth or teeth. Fixed bridges are strong and reliable and in most cases they feel and look very much like natural teeth.
Bridges have been an integral part of modern dentistry since the early part of the last century and prior to the use of implants was the preferred method for replacing teeth. Bridge technology is still viable and therefore we’ll be sharing some basic information and discussing the advantages (in certain cases), bridges can provide over dental implants. Dental implants are now the tooth restoration treatment method of choice for most dentists for missing teeth.
The pontic’s are the false teeth that fill gaps between the abutment teeth, and they’re usually made from gold, porcelain alloys, or a combination of materials. The anchor teeth can be your natural teeth or implants and they act as the main support for your bridge.
In order to even consider the design and construction of a dental bridge, two stable, healthy, abutment teeth must be factored into the equation. Preparing them includes contouring and reshaping them by removing enough teeth enamel to provide space for a crown to be mounted on top of the remaining tooth stub. The removal of your anchor teeth’s original shape and structure is the biggest disadvantage associated with traditional dental bridge designs. This causes the loss of significant amounts of healthy tooth tissue which can weaken the tooth, reducing its longevity potential.
In contrast, bridge restorations that are designed and supported exclusively by dental implants, offer a big plus to the adjacent natural teeth which will remain unscathed during the treatment process.
Before your dental bridge is made you’ll need to have standard impressions taken and perhaps, a digital scan of your mouth. The subsequent results will produce an exact model which will be used in the fabrication of your bridge. The entire dental bridge making process should ideally be overseen by a master dental lab specialist. The crowns should fit like a glove onto your anchor teeth, because once your final bridge is cemented into place it’ll be with you for a long time.
Westcoast International Dental Clinics has their own on site dental lab and professionally trained master lab technician from Germany on staff.
Fixed bridges are strong and reliable and in most cases they feel and look very much like natural teeth. Dental bridges can last 5 – 15 years and even longer if they remain stable, and if your personal hygiene and home care is maintained at a high level.
Disadvantages of Dental Bridges:
Please be advised, if something goes seriously awry with one of your abutment teeth, your entire dental bridge could be compromised. For example, if you develop a deep cavity, infection or periodontal (gum) disease with either supporting tooth, then you may lose the entire bridge. Therefore the space involved, design, fit and loading capacity, along with the diagnosis of whether to do a bridge or not is critical.
A common error when making a dental bridge is their often too long. According to physical law (Ante’s Law), the longer the span of the bridge, the more force is placed on the abutment teeth. This excessive force can cause intolerable stress on the adjoining abutment teeth. Therefore careful consideration of the biting forces, relative to your dynamic occlusion and what you eat determines what should be done.
The biggest disadvantage with dental bridges is the tooth preparation, especially if it involves young teeth with little or no restorations. We really don’t like preparing these virgin teeth to act as abutments, because studies indicate that these young teeth will most likely need root canal therapy in the future.
This condition occurs, because preparing a tooth or teeth for a dental bridge is still an injury to the tooth. Reducing much of the enamel from your tooth can lead to inflammation of the nerve which leads to sensitivity or pain, a side effect occurring in 1-3% of cases. To reduce or prevent this unnecessary side effect from occurring, at WIC we rely on a special minimally invasive lab process to prepare your tooth/ teeth. This technique allows for the creation of strong crowns, requiring only 1mm of support tooth prep, and also limits the heat generated during the process. As a result we can reduce the incidence of side effects to less than 1 in 500 cases.
Some of the advantages of dental bridges:
- Dental bridges are usually small, lightweight, providing excellent chewing comfort
- They correct and redistribute the normal bite force, compromised by your missing teeth
- Getting used to your new dental bridge is usually easy and comfortable
- Helps maintain the shape of your face
- Controls shifting and moving of adjoining teeth
- Enhances your natural speaking and eating ability
- Only 2 – 3 appointments are needed to complete your bridge restoration
- The longevity factor and general prognosis is good, if your hygiene and home care is maintained at a heightened level
What are the advantages of dental bridges over dental implants?
This is an important question and it should be considered whenever you’re thinking about using dental implants. Please note the examples shown below to illustrate this point.
Let’s say you have two broken down teeth next to the missing space.
This is a perfect example of why you should consider a dental bridge, as both of these teeth require crowns to protect them from future breakage disease or decay. It is mandatory for the long term health and functionality of the teeth that they are examined thoroughly and carefully considered. We must make sure they’re stable (no movement), the roots are long enough, and you have enough teeth remaining to support this bridge.
A focus on esthetics may also guide you to decide on a traditional bridge over an implant. Sometimes placing an implant can jeopardize the gum situation if the gum height is already low.
Patients with a very high and visible smile line need to carefully consider both possibilities. If you have a failed implant, sometimes changing plans and doing a bridge is better, because it’s likely the implant site is compromised. There are many cases in which esthetics drive the decision for a dental bridge or implant, with a bridge you can instantly control the color and shape of three teeth.
Another strong advantage is that bridges can be done quickly, in fact, at WIC a standard bridge can usually be completed in 2 days. Yes, a completed restoration with beautiful ceramics, whereas a dental implant takes a minimum of 2 months for the bone and implant to integrate fully. If someone tells you that you can have an implant and the final crown done in a week, please proceed with caution. Studies show that without adequate osseointegration (bone cells adhering to the implant) you may be facing an unpleasant surprise, if your new implant has not integrated properly.
At WIC our oral surgeons perform hundreds of implant placement surgeries each and every year. We’re experienced, highly skilled and never take unnecessary risks with our patient’s oral care.
There is another reason why installing dental bridges makes sense, and it’s directly related to a patient’s health condition and concerns. Some patients are not capable of undergoing implant or other larger surgical procedures due to cancer, diabetes, certain medications or autoimmune disease. Furthermore, because of your unique oral condition you may not want to engage in a complex bone reconstruction or implant surgery.
You may choose to go with a bridge if you have very little bone, which requires an extensive bone grafting procedure in order to safely support an implant.
The more extensive the grafting procedure, the greater the risk of a graft and or, implant rejection. It’s important you fully understand the risks and possible complications associated with a bone graft procedure, research shows a 45% failure rate with some techniques.
All of this can be minimized and eliminated with careful planning and if the procedures are performed under the care of a competent and reputable surgeon.
What about implants supported bridges?
Using implants to support a bridge is an excellent way to save costs, by spacing your implants apart it will make them easier to clean and maintain. If you can’t clean around your implants well, then you risk the development of premature bone loss. At WIC, we routinely refrain from placing more implants than are structurally needed, as it is our intention that the implants we do place will be stable, functional and long lasting.
Some important factors to consider about dental bridges:
- It is mandatory for the long term stability of your bridge that you make sure your remaining surrounding teeth stay strong and healthy.
- Until you are used to your new bridge, you must consume soft foods or chew small morsels.
- You must refrain from eating a lot of sugary or other unhealthy foods, as it will accelerate the accumulation of plaque and unwanted bacterial decay on your compromised anchor teeth.
- After your bridge has been installed you may experience sensitivity eating hot or cold foods.
- You must maintain a high level of oral hygiene and home care in order to maintain the stability of your bridge.
WIC in Hanoi and HCM City can provide you with everything you need to know about bridges, implants and any other dental specialty you may be seeking.
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