Are implants better than bridges?

In some cases, an implant may be a better option than a permanent bridge (a series of joined crowns). If a missing tooth is surrounded by teeth that have never had a cavity or been filled before "a virgin tooth," an implant is an attractive option. If, however, the missing tooth is surrounded by teeth that have had large fillings or root canal, a permanent bridge may be the better option. Every situation is different, so I suggest you talk to your dentist to find the treatment option that is best for you.

Which option is better always depends on your individual situation. However, the major advantages for implants in general is that they are more natural, you can brush and floss them normally, they preserve the bone in the area of the missing tooth, and they do not require any changes to other teeth. Bridges require special hygiene techniques, they do not preserve bone, and they require the teeth adjacent to the space to be reduced for crowns. That said, bridges are less expensive and require less time, and are still good restorations in many cases. Your dentist will discuss with you how your specific situation fits with both options.

Implants are a great way to replace a missing tooth. In many cases, an implant is a better choice than a fixed bridge because you do not need to shape and crown adjacent teeth when using an implant, but you would need to use teeth on each side of the missing tooth to hold the bridge.

There are still instances however, when a fixed bridge might be the better option, possibly a lack of bone to place an implant or the adjacent teeth are significantly damaged and need to have crowns already (in this case it would be mostly an economic decision to do a bridge instead of an implant).
Each dental situation is unique, so there isn't one pat answer to this question.

As a general rule, implants have the advantage of preserving bone in your jaw, preserving teeth next to the missing ones by not having to cut them down for a bridge, and in allowing your home care to be similar to what you do for your natural teeth. They can also allow you to have a non-removable restoration in an area where a bridge might not be possible. (For example, where you don't have a natural tooth on each side of the missing one(s) or when you have a long span of missing teeth.
There's not a simple answer to that question. The answer depends on many factors and each patient presents with his or her unique conditions. Here are some of the questions that I ask myself when a patient wants to know which option is preferable. Is the patient’s bone of good quality and quantity?  In what condition are the adjacent and remaining teeth? What is the patient’s long term goal for his teeth? Is the site cosmetically important? Does the patient have a contributing health history (smoker, heavy alcohol use, bisphosphonate use, current medications, and periodontal disease). Are there financial challenges? Are there time constraints? 

Once the practitioner has gathered the necessary information, the findings should be discussed with the patient. Both bridges and implants can be a predictable, long term solution if they are done under the right conditions. The new 3 dimensional or cone beam x-rays have proven very helpful in the decision making process. 
Although it depends upon personal preference and cost, more and more people are choosing dental implants over bridges. Bridges require that adjacent teeth be prepared to allow placement of  an artificial crown and bridge to support the artificial tooth or teeth that will fill in the gap. It may be undesirable that healthy teeth have to be prepared for an artificial tooth to fill the gap. Implants, on the other hand, do not require the destruction and restoration of adjacent teeth. However, a bridge can look and feel like real teeth. An implant consists of the implant itself, a post extension, and a crown, and also looks and feels exactly like a real tooth. But implants can often cost more than a bridge. Talk with your dentist about the option that may be best for you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.