Did your dentist tell you it’s time for a bridge? Read this before you make an expensive mistake!
First, please remember that we are dealing with the human body, and nothing is guaranteed! Also, at all Station Dental locations we use only the highest quality materials for all dental procedures. We do not, and will never, buy sub-standard materials from eBay or Amazon, and all dental materials are purchased from reputable dental supply companies.
That being said, the average lifespan of a dental bridge is generally 5-10 years, though occasionally they can last longer. Many factors can affect this longevity, from poor hygiene, the types of foods we eat, body piercings, integrity of the supporting teeth, infrequent dental visits, reduction in supporting bone, the materials used for the bridge, or accidents to name just the main contributors. If you find that you are guilty of one or more of these reasons, you may want to question whether a bridge is right for you?
Someone who is searching for a bridge to replace a missing (or soon to be missing) tooth, is often likely in need of a bridge because of poor oral hygiene and maybe not so good at going to those regularly scheduled dental appointments? Because a bridge requires even more attention to hygiene than the tooth that preceded it, you may want to question your commitment to additional oral care? Not only do you have to floss between your teeth, but with a bridge you now need to thread floss under the bridge and make sure there is nothing getting trapped down there.
With a dental implant, the expected lifespan is much longer, often for life. However, this is the implant itself – the medical grade “root” that supports the implant crown. The crown portion is made of ceramic and follows much of the same rules that the bridge does, aside from oral care which is more like caring for your natural teeth. You still need 6-month cleaning appointments and your dentist or hygienist will clean the implant for you.
It’s also important to not forget the time that has transpired by the time you need to replace your bridge. Here you are and you are 5-10 years older, and most likely you have new dental needs. Now you are looking at the increasing costs of your oral health, and paying a second… or third time for a bridge, which is what brings us to number 2, the cost of a dental bridge vs. dental implant.
It is true, that at face value, a dental implant will most likely cost you more than a dental bridge, however, the following breakdown may surprise you!
Also, remember, we are dealing with the human body? Yeah, you’ve heard that before. For both bridges and implants there are many factors that can affect pricing. The below cost is based on a general procedure with nothing added, assuming a 10-year lifespan of the dental bridge and implant crown.
Based on studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7% of people have lost their first tooth by age 17, and this increases to 69% by the time they are 35 to 44 years old. Based on this study, we will assume the cost calculations begin at 40 years old to count for the majority of adults who need either a dental bridge or implant.
As of this writing, these are the costs according to the usual and customary fees at all Station Dental locations, and are only provided as an example. If you have dental insurance your fees will most likely be much lower than the presented fees. Station Dental also offers an In-office Dental Discount Plan which will save on the below fees.
A dental bridge essentially consists of 3 dental crowns. Two normal crowns on the supporting teeth and one pontic in between. That means 2 supporting teeth are prepared for the crowns and one large “combined crown” is cemented to the two prepared teeth, giving the appearance of 3 healthy teeth.
|D6740 – Crown||D6245 – Pontic||D6740 – Crown||Total|
What is often not said when you see a quote for a dental implant, is that the implant itself is just the “root” portion of the restoration. What’s really included in a dental implant is three parts, the implant, the abutment and the crown.
|D6010 – Implant||D6057 – Abutment||D6058 – Crown||Total|
As you can see, initial cost for a dental implant is about 15% higher than a bridge, but by the 10-year mark with upkeep, the implant has already become less expensive than the bridge. With the ease of care, the aesthetic quality, the longevity and overall improved quality of life, and now the cost, we definitely recommend a dental implant over a bridge.
We already briefly discussed hygiene, but it’s important to understand exactly what may be expected with a dental bridge. Because the tooth in the middle is missing, there is a gap between the gums and the bridge. This gap can take on many forms, but to provide the best appearance of a tooth, the pontic (middle tooth in a bridge) is set down into the gum to look natural. This is an area that is highly prone to catching food and bacteria. The good thing is that this created pocket is not touching any other teeth or roots, so the concerns are lessened, however, you need to remember the supporting teeth as the bookends of your bridge.
We will get deeper into the bone talk, but that missing tooth is now not stimulating the bone between the two supporting teeth, and it is receding. This is slowly exposing more of the roots of the supporting teeth. These roots are much more difficult to clean at home and even the added flossing with a threader is not enough to ensure they don’t develop more buildup – leading to more bone loss! A regular 6-month dental cleaning visit is incredibly important at this point, but it’s not the only thing you need to do. Cleaning the bridge and surrounding teeth becomes more important than ever before or you risk the bridge failing, or the supporting teeth failing.
Hygiene for dental implants is essentially no different than it would be for your natural teeth. Aside from it being composed of ceramic and titanium, it is just another tooth in your mouth. That does not mean that you can ignore your oral hygiene. The implant and crown can still build plaque and calculus, and poor hygiene can still lead to bone loss. Brushing, flossing, mouthwash etc. is still recommended, as are your regular dentist visits. You may hear that implants need to be cared for differently, but honestly, if you develop good habits you will most likely ensure the longest life for your implant, and your remaining teeth!
Teeth are strong, really strong. In fact, tooth enamel is the toughest part of the human body. This is important since we use our teeth to grind up all kinds of food every day. Some of us use our teeth to grind up ice as well… ahem, do not do this. We even use our teeth to grind our other teeth when we’re stressed out or sleeping (if this is you, please ask us about a custom night guard).
What we’re saying here though, is that a strong tooth is designed this way for a reason. To properly restore your smile and chewing surface with a dental crown, the two supporting teeth on either side are ground down to support this new bridge.
That means you are agreeing to grind down the enamel and much of the structure of healthy teeth! Now, this isn’t the end of the world, you will be covering this newly exposed area with a brand-new crown. Unfortunately, with crowns and dental fillings, the probability of decay starting underneath is higher now than it was with your enamel in place. Our mission at Station Dental is to save teeth, and grinding two healthy teeth down to save one, just doesn’t always sit right. We always recommend considering a dental implant for anyone who is a good candidate.
When it comes to tooth health and an implant, there’s no question. You needed a bridge because you are without a tooth – there’s no health there! An implant simply fills the gap where that tooth was, and does nothing to compromise the surrounding teeth. This is a win-win!
Many people don’t truly understand the concern when it comes to missing teeth and bone loss. Here’s what may happen with just one missing tooth:
Ok, is that scary enough? But right now we’re talking about bone loss.
The most immediate concern with losing one tooth and the following bone loss is that once that bone is gone, it’s that there is no getting it back. There are expensive surgeries that can possibly help if you decide down the road to get an implant, but it is not guaranteed. You may have no options left in time.
Secondly, the teeth on either side of the missing tooth may now be affected by the bone loss. As it is resorbed in the middle, the natural angle of the bone may cause it to pull away from the healthy teeth, thus ending up with them being compromised.
In this scenario, the implant is a no-brainer. Unlike a bridge, the implant replaces the missing root, giving the same feedback to the bone as if you had your tooth. Now your bone is healthy and happy, constantly strengthening and reconfiguring itself as your implant provides pressure.
If you don’t decide right away to get an implant to replace your missing tooth, we definitely suggest a bone-graft to prolong your decision-making time. This can give you and extra 1-2 years of time before you really get the irreversible bone loss.
There is a ticking clock that starts the minute you lose a tooth. Without the forces of chewing on that tooth, the body decides it no longer needs the supporting bone. If a bridge is a temporary solution for a missing tooth, what happens when you lose the next tooth, and the one after that? You have to start deciding what to do. Your options decrease as you lose bone structure, and you may not be happy with what you’re left with. A dental implant is the best insurance policy against losing your future dental options.
As mentioned earlier, your facial structure can change as you lose teeth. One generally won’t cause major changes, but more than that and you will see dramatic changes.
Overall, a dental bridge and dental implant when they are new and healthy don’t have a big difference in quality of life. They look similar. You can chew your food with both.
But what about when that bridge fails and costs you more? Or when you lose the supporting teeth and now you don’t have the option for an implant because you’ve lost too much bone? It’s important as you work with your dentist on your oral future that you take these things into consideration. Dental health is a lifelong journey, and just like any path taken, there is a right and a wrong one. When it comes to lifelong oral health, we will almost always recommend a dental implant over a dental bridge.
I hope this has been helpful as you decide on your future smile! If you would like to schedule an appointment to go over your options with a highly qualified implant and restorative Dentist at Station Dental, give us a call today or schedule an appointment! We are always accepting new patients.