Dentures, Bridges, or Dental Implants?
What’s the Best Way to Replace a Tooth?
While both dentures and implants will fill the gaps left by missing teeth, there are other important considerations to be aware of when making a choice for dental repairs:
The expense associated with implants
The higher cost of dental implants can be the biggest obstacle for many patients to overcome when it comes to replacing one or more missing teeth. Despite their aesthetic and greater functional superiority the initial price of dental implants can cause many people to lean towards more conventional and less expensive options like bridges or dentures.
Success in the short term
Second to cost, another attractive aspect to dental bridges or dentures is the quick turnaround time since they can be ready and fitted at about 2 weeks, while dental implants take longer to become fully integrated into the mouth and jaw before they reach their peak performance level
However, there are a few additional costs associated with dentures and bridges which can include:
- restoring decayed teeth surrounding bridges
- treating gum disease caused by improperly fitted dentures and difficult to reach pockets created by bridges
- maintaining, repairing and replacing partial or fully removable dentures
The real cost of short sightedness
The actual physical structure of a jaw without teeth will initially shrink quite rapidly most particularly during the first six months — and more slowly over time for the remainder of the patient’s life. Consequently, when a denture is made to fit a person’s jaw it will need to be remade and refitted as the jawbone shrinks.
The teeth in a denture appliance eventually wear down and become less effective at chewing food. Worn denture teeth naturally cause a person to bite and chew with more force, pushing the denture into the jawbone, causing the bone to shrink at an even faster rate. Jawbone deterioration and loss is the major problem with removable dentures, a problem that also works to increase the speed of a person’s aging process. Grinding of the teeth will decrease the life of a denture also.
When a dental bridge is used to replace missing teeth, the supporting or adjacent teeth have to be ground down in order to make room for the support post of the bridge. Once the adjacent teeth have been altered in this way they become susceptible to damage and tooth decay. It is quite difficult for patients to properly clean the areas around and under dental bridges, which causes an accumulation of dental plaque and an increased susceptibility of tooth decay and gum disease. As in the case of dentures, the jawbone in the area where teeth are missing will shrink, weaken and deteriorate over time, which can cause the surrounding teeth to become loose, change position and even fracture in some cases. This mobility of the teeth will then create a situation where the structural integrity of the bridge is at risk.
The best long term solution
The average long term success rate of dental implant surgery in a healthy patient with good bone structure is over 95 percent. This figure can change to between 85 and 90 percent in patients who require bone grafting to increase density and to ensure that the implant will anchor well. For smokers, the failure rate of dental implants is about two times higher compared to non-smokers. Experienced implant dentists have success rate records as high as 99 percent for patients with healthy jawbone and gums. One of the most appealing aspects of a dental implant is that it works just like a natural tooth, without requiring any special care and without causing any damage to adjacent teeth. The only requirement to ensure the long life of a dental implant is for the patient to continue to maintain good dental health and proper daily oral hygiene – exactly as they would for natural teeth.
Once a dental implant has been placed and has properly integrated into the bone (a process called osseointegration) that implant can be expected to last for a lifetime, whereas dental bridges require replacement every ten years on average (due to bridge failure or adjacent teeth failure). Dentures also need to be replaced or modified about every five to ten years due to improper fit and bone loss. Therefore, although the initial expense for dentures and bridges may be relatively low, over time that cost will rise as repairs and replacements are needed, and as oral treatments are required due to gum disease and repair or loss of surrounding teeth. General health will also be affected as ill-fitting dentures do not allow for proper and efficient chewing.
Dental implants provide a much better aesthetic and functional results compared to alternative dental restorations. They help to ensure that a patient will be able to maintain their usual eating habits, keep a natural appearance and speak and chew without the embarrassment often caused by removable dentures.