Dental technology has come a long way in recent years, and there are now a number of options when it comes to dealing with one or more missing teeth. Patients can now choose between custom-made removable dentures, a dental bridge, or permanent dental implants.
Here at AZ Periodontal Group, Dr. Trujillo and our team of dental implant specialists have extensive hands-on experience in providing patients with personalized, comfortable solutions for missing teeth.
To help you understand the similarities and differences between dental implants, dental bridges, and dentures, we’ve prepared this overview that looks at the pros and cons of each procedure.
Dental implants are artificial tooth roots that are placed either on top of or into the jawbone. These roots serve as the base for one or more replacement teeth.
There are two main types of dental implants — endosteal, and subperiosteal.
Endosteal dental implants are the most commonly used. This type of implant is placed directly into the jawbone using surgical screws, blades, or a combination of fasteners. Once installed, the implant serves as a permanent, solid root on which an artificial tooth, or teeth, can be mounted.
Subperiosteal dental implants are placed on top of the jawbone, rather than in the bone. These on-the-bone dental implants use metal posts that extend through the gum in order to hold a prosthetic tooth. While this type of dental implant is less common than endosteal implants, subperiosteal implants may be an option for patients who lack the bone height needed for either an in-the-bone implant or dentures.
A dental bridge is an option for patients with between one and four missing teeth, although it’s most commonly used to replace one or two teeth.
Also known as a fixed dental prosthesis, this type of dental restoration uses an artificial tooth, or teeth, that are fused in place. The teeth on either side of the gap are carefully filed down to prepare a clean surface for the bridge to fasten to. The dentist then makes a model of the supporting teeth and uses that model to craft the custom-made artificial tooth or teeth.
The bridge is made in a single piece along with the crowns that go on the healthy supporting teeth that border the missing tooth, or teeth. The permanent bridge is created by a dental lab, so once the model is made, the dentist will make a temporary bridge that’s installed to prevent damage to the teeth.
Once the permanent bridge is ready to be installed, the dentist removes the temporary bridge, then installs the permanent, custom bridge by cementing the crowns to the healthy teeth bordering the gap.
In situations where the patient lacks the healthy teeth needed to support a dental bridge, an implant bridge may be used. This involves surgically placing dental implants into the jawbone, then anchoring the dental bridge to the implants. When well cared for using good dental hygiene practices, a typical dental bridge should last at least 10 years.
Dentures are removable artificial teeth that replace multiple missing teeth. Patients who have lost a number of teeth due to an accident or injury get dentures. Also, patients who have had chronic poor oral health, or who suffer from severe gum disease that’s caused permanent damage to the teeth and gums get dentures.
There are two main styles of dentures: partial dentures, and complete dentures.
Partial dentures, also known as partials, are removable dental prostheses that are used when a number of teeth are missing, and the remaining teeth cannot support a dental bridge. Partial dentures consist of multiple artificial teeth seated into artificial gums, and the prostheses are held in place using metal clasps fitted onto the remaining natural teeth.
Complete dentures, also known as full dentures, are used to replace all the upper and/or lower teeth. Complete dentures are held in place using a combination of suction and denture paste.
When the patient’s teeth are removed in preparation for full dentures, the dentist may make a set of immediate dentures. Patients wear these temporarily for a number of months following the extraction of any remaining natural teeth since the extraction recovery period can last for several months.
Once the gum tissue and jaw have fully healed from extraction, a full set of conventional, removable dentures can be placed and worn.
In some cases, a dentist may be able to preserve some remaining natural teeth and improve patient comfort by using an overdenture. This is a type of removable denture that fits over the top of the natural teeth that border a section of missing teeth treated with a partial denture, rather than fastening to the natural teeth with metal clasps.
Pros and Cons of Dental Implants, Dental Bridges, and Dentures
While dental implants, dental bridges, and dentures are all treatments used for patients with missing teeth, these solutions aren’t interchangeable. Each treatment comes with specific pros and cons:
- Look very similar to natural teeth
- Require no special maintenance
- Can be very comfortable to use
- Installation involves placing the implant directly into, or on top of, the jawbone
- Cost can be relatively high compared to other dental procedures
- Slight risk of complications related to the use of surgical anesthesia
Patients looking for a permanent replacement for a missing tooth
- Natural looking
- Can be used to replace between one and four missing teeth
- When properly maintained, a dental bridge will last 10 years or longer
- Less costly than dental implants or dentures
- Dental bridges are not permanent and need to be periodically replaced
- Food can become lodged between the bridge and the gum line
- Placement of a dental bridge involves shaving down healthy teeth to anchor the bridge
Patients seeking a cost-effective solution for one or more missing teeth
- Restore facial appearance in patients missing multiple teeth
- Easy to maintain
- Can mimic the look of natural teeth
- Available in either partial or full sets
- Dentures need to be properly maintained on a daily basis
- Don’t look or feel as natural as dental bridges or dental implants
- Can make eating some foods difficult
Patients who have advanced gum disease or multiple missing teeth
To learn more about dental implants, dental bridges, and dentures, contact AZ Periodontal Group.