Trying to decide which dental restoration or appliance is right for you can be a daunting task, and one that can only be accomplished with the help of your dentist. Still, as you begin to narrow down your choices, it’s helpful to understand your options and learn a little more about the advantages and disadvantages of each. This will enable you to have a better understanding before having the discussion with your dentist. In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of bridges and crowns vs. implants.
Basic Information You Should Know about Crowns, Bridges, and Implants
We’ll begin by briefly explaining what a crown is, what a bridge is, what an implant is, and how each is used.
- Crowns: A dental crown (also known as a “cap”) is a tooth-shaped dental restoration that is intended to cover the entire surface of a tooth, from the top right down to the gum line. Crowns can be made from a variety of materials, including metal, porcelain, ceramic, zirconia, and metal fused with one of the other materials. Crowns are typically used to cover a tooth that has been badly damaged or has undergone a root canal. But crowns are also used in two tooth replacement methods – bridges and dental implants.
- Bridges: A dental bridge is one of the most common ways to replace missing teeth. It consists of one or more artificial teeth mounted into a metal frame that attaches to the patient’s adjoining teeth on each end. Bridges are usually permanently bonded onto existing “abutment” teeth and are not removable by the patient. Depending on the type of bridge chosen, the appliance can include either a crown on each end that fits over the adjoining natural teeth, or tooth-colored brackets that are bonded onto the abutment teeth.
- Implants: Another increasingly popular method used to replace one or more missing teeth is the dental implant, which consists of a tiny metal rod with a crown affixed to the top. The first step in getting an implant is when the dentist or oral surgeon implants the metal rod into the patient’s jawbone at the exact location of the missing tooth. After a period of several months, the rod fuses with the jawbone tissue. At that time, the dentist affixes a crown to the top of the implant. Just as is the case with bridges, dental implants are considered permanent tooth replacements and cannot be removed by the patient.
Dental Bridge Pros and Cons
Bridges are very commonly used to replace missing teeth in a dental patient. What follows are some of the advantages and disadvantages of these appliances:
- Cost – Bridges are a relatively inexpensive way to replace one or more missing teeth.
- Non-invasive – As opposed to dental implants, which require oral surgery, bridges are not invasive in any way. Bridges don’t require any type of oral surgery.
- Quick – Compared to getting a dental implant, the process involved in getting a new dental bridge is very quick.
- Strain on abutment teeth – Because a bridge relies on the patient’s adjoining natural teeth (also referred to as “abutment” teeth) to remain anchored in place, it can cause a good deal of strain on those teeth.
- No effect on bone tissue – People who are missing one or more teeth commonly also suffer from bone loss in their jawbones. This is due to the fact that bone tissue needs to be stimulated in order to stay healthy, a task that is normally accomplished by the roots of the patient’s teeth. Bridges do nothing to address this issue, so bone loss will continue to worsen even after the patient begins wearing a bridge.
- Durability – Although bridges are quite durable, they will need to be replaced after a few years.
Dental Implant Pros and Cons
Implants are becoming increasingly popular with dental patients as a means of replacing missing teeth. Once you find out more about them, you’ll understand why that’s true. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of dental implants:
- No strain on adjoining teeth – Because an implant doesn’t rely on abutment teeth for support, it doesn’t put any stress on the patient’s other natural teeth.
- Stimulates bone growth – The metal rod that is inserted into the patient’s jawbone acts as an artificial tooth root. This provides stimulation that the jawbone tissue needs to grow and remain healthy.
- Durability – It can be said that virtually every dental restoration and/or tooth-replacement appliance (such as dental bridges and dentures, for example) will need to be replaced after a certain number of years. But dental implants may be the exception. If properly cared for, a dental implant can last for the lifetime of the patient.
- Appearance – A dental implant looks and feels exactly like a natural tooth. And while it’s true that dental bridges and other tooth-replacement options are natural-looking as well, they really can’t compare to implants when it comes to appearance.
- Cost – As you can imagine, dental implants are more expensive than bridges and other tooth replacement options. This should come as no surprise given the number of steps involved in the dental implant process, including the initial implanting of the metal rod, which is considered to be oral surgery.
- Time required – There’s no doubt that the implant process is time-consuming. In fact, from start to finish, getting a new dental implant typically takes many months.
When it comes to choosing between crowns, bridges, and implants, the first thing to remember is that crowns serve a different purpose that bridges and implants. Crowns are intended to restore an existing tooth, while both bridges and implants are designed to replace missing teeth. So if you have a tooth that is damaged and needs to be repaired, a crown could be an excellent choice. But if you have one or more missing teeth that need to be repaired, either a bridge or a dental implant could work. Now, it’s simply a matter of discussing the options with your oral health care provider. For more information about the pros and cons of bridges and crowns vs. implants, contact your dentist today and schedule an appointment.