When patients come to me to replace a missing tooth, or if we have to extract one for one reason or another, we start a conversation about what’s the best option to replace it. Are they a better candidate for a dental bridge, or do we look at dental implants?

Both have pros and cons. And not everybody is a candidate for both.

In this post, I hope to explain the difference between the two and provide you with the answers you need to make an informed decision.

Part of the decision of which is right for you depends on your oral health. If you are considering implants, you must have healthy gums and jaw to support the implant. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

Dental Implant vs. Bridge: What’s the Difference?

A dental implant is basically creating an new tooth, with a “root” anchored in the jawbone. Over time, the root (usually a titanium cylinder) bonds and fuses with the jaw. During this process – usually a few months – we put a protective cover. Once this is complete, the cover is replaced with a temporary crown, while the gum reforms, and later a more permanent tooth. If you are only replacing one tooth, this may be your better option.
A dental bridge does not re-create a root in your mouth. Instead, it uses the teeth on either side of the missing tooth/teeth as support for the artificial crowns. The crowns then create a “bridge” to cover the gap, but aren’t attached to the jaw. if you are missing more than one tooth, or if your teeth on either side have larger fillings, this may be your better option.

Pros & Cons of Each

Dental Implant Pros:

  • Supports healthy jaw, with little to no gum/bone loss.
  • Stronger and more permanent.
  • You don’t have to make any changes (cutting into, filing down, etc.) the adjacent teeth to prep.
  • Easier to maintain good oral health (floss and brush just like your natural teeth)
  • Look, feel and mimic your natural tooth
  • Because the jawbone stays strong and healthy, there is a positive impact on total oral health AND the shape of your face as you age.

Dental Implant Cons:

  • Slower process – it can take six months or longer for the implant to fuse with the jawbone (called osseointegration). Plus, the time with a temporary crown and then finally a permanent crown.
  • Requires some serious oral surgery in multiple stages.
  • Longer healing time between procedures
  • Costs. Rarely covered by insurance.

Dental Bridge Pros:

  • Less time intensive
  • Relatively quick, easy and safe. The entire process can be completed in a few weeks.
  • Very natural looking – they can be used to improve the look (color, shape) of the teeth being replaced.
  • Low risk – if a bridge needs replacing for whatever reason, it can be done so quickly and easily
  • Costs. Covered by most insurance plans.

Dental Bridge Cons:

  • Adjacent teeth need to be “prepped,” which may mean filing away some enamel and changes to their structure to affix the bridge.
  • Additional care is needed in brushing and flossing to make sure you are getting in between and under the bridge.
  • Some bone and gum loss.
  • May need to be replaced over time

Your decision is completely up to you. As a prosthodontist*, I specialize in crowns, implants and bridges, and can ensure you have the most natural-looking results.

Remember, whichever option you choose, proper replacement is the key to your confident smile.

* Prosthodontists are experts in the restoration and replacement of teeth – they make smiles look beautiful and function the way they should. After completing four years of dental school, Prosthodontists receive an extra three years of specialized training in an American Dental Association (ADA) accredited graduate program. Prosthodontics is one of the nine dental specialties recognized by the ADA.