According to statistics, there is a high probability that you will face the following dental dilemma in your adult life – Dental Bridges or Implants?
If you are between 35 and 44, there is a 69% chance that you will have lost at least one tooth according to a recent study by the American Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons. The reasons for losing a tooth can be multiple, but the main causes are through an accident, tooth decay, gum disease or even failed root canal treatment.
You may be asking yourself so what if one tooth has to go, as long as it’s not one of my front teeth, who is going to notice? Unfortunately losing a tooth does not just cause cosmetic consequences but also further dental related issues.
Teeth by nature need to remain in place to ensure the other surrounding teeth stay in the correct position. If a tooth is missing, all the adjacent teeth will begin to move which can lead to adverse side-effects such as a misaligned bite, temporomandibular joint implication as well as an increased risk of gum disease and tooth decay.
Thankfully teeth replacement treatments have improved drastically over the past 25 years, and the following article will look at the merits and drawbacks of dental bridges and dental implants and what range of options are available in Malta at Savina Dental Clinics.
What is a Dental Bridge
Dental Bridge treatment falls under the category of Restorative Dentistry and is used to replace a missing tooth or teeth. The Dentist prepares the teeth on either side of the missing tooth or teeth as support to hold the false tooth/teeth in between. The term bridge is used as it bridges the gap by using the adjacent teeth to hold a structure ( in this case a fake tooth) in place. The enamel of the adjacent teeth is filed down to allow the bridge to be fitted in parallel to the surrounding teeth to ensure the correct alignment and contact areas with the opposing teeth.
There are three main types of dental bridges available to fix different problems:
- Traditional bridges: This involves creating a crown on either side of a missing tooth with the pontic (artificial tooth) placed in between. Traditional bridges are made out of a combination of porcelain with metal or ceramics
- Cantilever bridges: This type of bridge is used when there are no adjacent teeth on one side of the missing tooth or teeth. This kind of procedure is not performed as often in recent years, and dentists do not recommend using this type of bridge for back teeth where too much pressure is forced upon the other teeth causing damage to the bridge.
- Maryland bridges: These are also known as a resin bonded bridge and is either made from porcelain, porcelain fused to metal or plastic teeth and gums which are held up by a metal or porcelain framework. This metal structure is bonded to one side of your existing teeth (not crowns) via a metal or porcelain wing.
In recent years, traditional metal-fused-to-porcelain crowns and bridges have been replaced by metal-free materials including pressed porcelains and Zirconium cores with layered porcelain for superior aesthetics combined with strength and resistance to fracture.
History of Dental Bridges
Dental bridges are not a new phenomenon though as they were used over 2,500 years ago by the Etruscans (powerful ancient Italy based civilisation).
However back then, dental bridges were a sign of status and not used to replace missing teeth. Instead, wealthy women opted to remove their teeth by choice and replaced with gold fixtures held secure by dental bridges. It was only in the twentieth century that dentists started to use dental bridges to replace missing teeth as part of cosmetic or restorative dental treatment.
The Dental Bridge Procedure
Dental bridge treatment requires at least two visits to your Dentist’s office. Here is a brief rundown of the process involved:
- Reshaping of supporting teeth: The first visit to the dentist’s chair requires a local anaesthetic to the area around the tooth or teeth that will be used to support the bridge. The teeth are reshaped to fit the crown which is placed on top. This process is a highly skilled activity and may take up to an hour per tooth to prepare. The crowns must be perfectly secured to be able to keep the bridge in place.
- Taking an impression: Once your surrounding teeth are reshaped, your dentist will take an impression of the missing teeth and the adjacent teeth using a rubber putty material. This mould is sent to the dental laboratory who proceeds to make a custom bridge that fits your mouth precisely. As this takes a couple of weeks to make your customised bridge, your dentist will fit a temporary bridge in place which is bonded securely. You must be careful not to eat any extra hard or chewy foods while wearing the temporary bridge.
- Permanent bridge fitting: Your second visit to the dentist’s chair two to three weeks later will involve removing of the temporary bridge and fitting of the custom permanent bridge. Before fitting the permanent bridge, your dentist will again clean the adjacent teeth thoroughly. While this procedure can be performed without local anaesthetic, most dentists will still recommend it, so you do not feel any sensitivity or unnecessary discomfort. Your dentist will also perform some checks to ensure that your bite is the same as pre-treatment.
- Aftercare advice: During the second visit, the dentist will also advise of the best way to clean the bridge properly as this has a direct correlation on how long the bridge will last. One of the most common reasons a bridge fails is due to a cavity occurring under the supporting crowns, but this is greatly reduced by good oral hygiene. A dental bridge can last more than ten years if looked after properly which included brushing twice daily, flossing and regular dental check ups.
Case Study: Before Dental Bridge Treatment At Savina Dental Clinic Malta
After Dental Bridge Treatment At Savina Dental Clinic Malta
What is a Dental Implant
Before dental implants, your only option to replace a missing tooth or teeth were dentures or bridges.
A dental implant is a structure made from a synthetic yet bio-compatible material (titanium or ceramic) that is placed in the jaw where the root of the missing tooth once resided. Implants are extremely well designed and look and feel like natural teeth.
The implant is secured firmly to the jaw and is the foundation for which the artificial tooth or permanent bridge is placed. No preparation of adjacent teeth are required to replace a missing tooth or teeth. Implants can also be used to fix dentures if required.
Unfortunately, not everyone is a suitable candidate for dental implants. For an implant to be a success, the patient must have well-established bone density and a healthy immune system. People with diabetes may present some risks for this treatment and the same applies to people with a high propensity to clench their teeth. However, it is the surgeon who decides which patients might not be suitable.
As with all tooth replacement treatments, strict levels of oral hygiene are required to ensure long lasting benefits. According to American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), the average success rate for dental implants is 95%.
However, this statistic is influenced greatly by the location of your missing teeth and your health and lifestyle in general. Your dentist will let you know how complicated the procedure is when performing their thorough examination but in general if you are considered a good candidate for dental implants, the success rate is very high.
At Savina Dental we offer world renowned implant brands which are at the forefront of dental implant technology.
Zimmer® Implants – USA
Straumann® Implants – Switzerland
Dentaurum – Germany
BTK – Italy
Cortex – Israel
How Long Can A Dental Implant Last?
Once a dental implant is properly maintained (which includes regular dental check ups) there is no reason to believe that it will not last a lifetime. This is a huge benefit when compared to a dental bridge which will need to be replaced after 10 to 15 years, even with good oral hygiene taken into account.
Dental Implants Case Study Images
Dental Implant – Three Tooth Bridge Stage 1
Dental Implants – Bilateral Bridges
Bilateral Bridges Stage 2
Partial Upper Bridge On Dental Implants – Stage 1
Partial Upper Bridge On Dental Implants – Stage 2
Stage 3 – Upper Bridge On Dental Implants Completed
What if you are a good candidate for both bridges and implants?
If your dentist informs you that you are in fact a suitable candidate for both dental bridges or implants, how do you choose which is the best treatment?
Below we list the benefits and drawbacks of both to help you decide.
Benefits of Dental Bridges
- Visually appealing, functional, predictable
- Cost less
- Treatment time is less to see the result
Drawbacks of Dental Bridges
- Enamel removal required of surrounding teeth
- If surround teeth already have crowns, they must be redone
- Tooth decay of adjacent teeth is potential big problem
- Additional Root canal treatment may be required if nerves of adjacent teeth are affected
- Must be replaced after 10 to 15 years
Benefits of Dental Implants
- Visually appealing, functional, predictable, dependable
- Does not affect surrounding teeth
- Will not decay
- Fewer chances to develop gum disease
- Can last a lifetime (with good oral hygiene)
Drawbacks of Dental Implants
- More expensive initially than bridges
- More planning time needed
- Minor surgery required
- Requires healing time before permanent tooth replacement
Dental Bridges Vs Implants: Cost Implications
Dental bridges are initially cheaper than dental implants, but due to the necessity of having your bridge replaced at a point in the future, dental implants, in fact, turn out to be more cost effective.
Book Your Dental Bridge Or Implant Consultation Appointment Today
Savina Clinic – Dental & Implantology Centres are friendly, state-of-the-art practices in Malta and Gozo dedicated to comprehensive quality dental care. Savina Dental is an innovative dental practice in Malta and prides itself on the high-quality customer service, low waiting room times, attention to detail and the advanced dental technology at their disposal.
If you would like to book a dental bridge or implant consultation at Savina Dental, please book your appointment using this form.
Dr Joseph Xuereb
Dental & Implant Surgeon. Principal
Savina Dental Clinics