Tooth loss can have a monumental impact on a person both in terms of quality of life and of cosmetics. It is no wonder therefore that so many who suffer from tooth loss will attempt to bridge the gap—literally. The leading options for the replacement of a single tooth are a dental bridge or a dental implant, but which one is better and which one costs more? Here are just some of the categories by which one can judge the differences between a dental bridge and dental implant, helping you choose which one is best for your mouth and your wallet.
Once you have lost a tooth (and paid the bill to fix it), your main dental aim will probably be ensuring that your oral hygiene level is great in order to prevent any return trips to the dentist. In this regard, bridges can pose a bit of a problem. To fit a bridge, the two teeth either side of the missing off often need to be filed down, which makes them more susceptible to decay and damage (raising the spectre that you could lose even more teeth). Secondly, the logistics of how a bridge is fitted mean that it can be difficult to brush and floss around the bridge. In this light, implants are seen as better by the dentistry community as they do not have any of these defects: they pretty much look and act like actual teeth. Implants however are not the best option for everyone. Some dentists will recommend a bridge for those who smoke or those who have already lost a significant amount of the underlying bone.
The procedure for installing a dental bridge varies greatly depending on what kind of bridge is used. In most cases, one can be installed quickly and without anesthetic, while in others a bridge will require implant supports anyway. Overall however, bridges are a much easier dental procedure—something which matters greatly to those who have fear of the dentist. The procedure for installing dental implants is slightly more complex: local anesthesia is used while titanium screws are stilled into your jaw. The aftereffect however is important: these screws trick your body into thinking you still have teeth, so dental implants actually stimulate bone growth in your jaw and gums. This is a great thing, because it makes the dental implants even sturdier and also makes them feel natural. So while the procedure for implants is more strenuous, the end result is better.
Perhaps the most significant practical difference between a bridge and an implant is their longevity. A bridge is not a permanent fixture and will usually need replacing in 8-10 years. An implant, however, is permanent and if well cared for will last your entire life. If you do not fancy a return trip to the dentist within the next decade, then opting for the implant might be the better option.
Cost is often the single most important motivating factor for dental patients due to the scarcity of dental insurance available in the current market. Bridges are usually slightly cheaper than implants, and therefore have survived as a dentistry option despite most dentists being of the opinion that implants are the new industry standard. Yet while bridges may save you money in the short term, over the long term, they could actually cost you more. As mentioned above, a dental bridge has a life of about 8-10 years (with some studies placing the number as long as 6 years) and therefore will need to be removed and replaced at some point in the future. An implant, however, is permanent. Once you have laid out your money, you don’t need to lay out anymore. However, this isn’t the end of the financial problems surrounding implants. Another caveat is insurance: dental bridges are still more likely to be covered by insurance than dental implants, as the dental insurance industry has fell behind on new innovations and techniques. Therefore, if you are relying on dental insurance to pay for your work, a bridge may be your only choice.
The Final Round
Overall, implants are generally recognized by dentists as being the superior choice unless you have a specific health condition that prevents their use. The gap in price between implants and bridges is diminishing, and opting for an implant will save you money overall. The smart choice therefore if you are wavering between getting an implant or bridge on the basis of cost is to wait, save up, and make a choice based on your actual medical needs and not on money. That way, you’re doing what is best for you and making the smart, economic choice in the long run.