Monday, March 11, 2013

Dental Implants or Bridgework – Making The Best Choice

When you need to replace a missing tooth, there are two general alternatives to consider: You can choose traditional bridgework, or select the relatively newer option of dental implants. Both offer a solution that's reliable, functional, and esthetically pleasing. However, there are a few important differences between the two systems and both should be carefully considered before making a decision.

A fixed bridge is a more traditional dental restoration that's held in place by attachment to the adjacent natural teeth. A bridge therefor requires a minimum of two healthy adjacent teeth. The tooth-replacement section or fake tooth is called a “pontic”. The "abutments" are basically crowns that sit over and are cemented to your own prepared teeth. These abutments are in turn connected to the pontic(s) which bridge the gap in between. The system works well, but there's a catch: Even a single-tooth replacement requires a three-unit bridge — and healthy adjacent teeth must be reduced or “prepared” by removing their enamel, which increases the risk of future damage.

By contrast, a dental implant can be a single-tooth replacement system, with no effect on healthy adjacent teeth. It involves placing a titanium metal implant directly into the living bone of the jaw, in a minor surgical procedure. After a short time, the bone and the implant fuse, and a custom abutment and crown restoration are placed on top to complete the prosthetic tooth system. Dental implants don't decay, and they're less likely to lead to gum disease than a natural tooth bridge. They also last longer, potentially offering far greater value.

Given the choice, my preference is usually an implant restoration. However, it is critical to preform a comprehensive examination, as many other factors can influence the treatment plan. Certainly cases should be evaluated on an individual basis.