Family Dental Center

Posts for tag: bridgework

WhatsTheDifferenceBetweenBridgeworkandDentalImplants

When a natural tooth can’t be preserved, it is important to have it replaced as soon as possible. Presently, there are two excellent tooth-replacement systems in wide use: traditional bridgework and high-tech dental implants. What’s the difference between the two methods?

Essentially, it comes down to how the replacement tooth is secured in the mouth. In the dental implant system, a natural looking prosthetic tooth is solidly anchored in place by a screw-like titanium implant. This is inserted directly into the bone of the jaw in a minor surgical procedure, and over a short period of time (usually 6 – 12 weeks) its titanium metal structure will actually become fused with the living bone.

With bridgework, however, the support for the prosthetic tooth (or teeth) comes from the healthy teeth adjacent to it. These teeth must be prepared (shaped) by carefully removing some of the outer tooth material (enamel and some dentin), which enables them to be fitted with coverings called crowns or caps. Crowns are often used on their own, to restore teeth that are missing too much of their structure to be treated effectively with standard fillings. But the bridgework system goes one step further.

Instead of making individual crowns for each tooth, a dental lab will fabricate a bridge — a single unit consisting of crowns for the prepared teeth, plus complete prosthetics to replace the missing tooth (or teeth). A three-unit bridge, for example, consists of one complete prosthetic tooth to replace the one that’s missing, plus two crowns for the adjacent “abutment” teeth. It’s possible to have larger bridges as well: For example, a six-unit bridge might consist of two complete prosthetic teeth in the center, with two crowns for abutment teeth on each end, all linked together in one piece.

While bridgework has been used effectively for decades, it is now being gradually supplanted by dental implants. Implants don’t require the removal of healthy tooth material from abutment teeth, and they don’t place extra stress on those teeth; plus, they generally last much longer than natural tooth bridges. However, the dental bridge remains a viable alternative for tooth replacement in many circumstances.

If you would like more information about dental bridgework, please call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Crowns & Bridgework.”

Before determining if a bridge or an implant will work best for you, here is some useful background information. There are two main parts to a tooth; the crown or part that you see above the gum line and the root portion that is below the gum line and encased in bone — the part that is replaced by a dental implant.

A dental implant is inserted into the jawbone during a surgical procedure. The implant is actually a titanium screw-like device that is placed in contact with the bone. During a 3 to 6 month healing period, it subsequently fuses to the bone. A crown made from dental porcelain, gold or a combination of both is then attached to the implant to mimic a healthy, normal tooth.

There are two critical reasons why implants are the preferred method for permanently replacing an adult tooth. The first is that they are less susceptible to gum disease and they are not subject to tooth decay. The second is that because they attach to the jawbone and not to the adjacent teeth. And while an implant may cost a little more initially, when compared to the longevity and replacement cost of bridgework over a lifetime, they may cost less.

By contrast, a fixed bridge is also a non-removable restoration or prosthesis (replacement part) that is held in place by attaching it to your natural adjacent teeth. The treatment gets its name from the French word for bridge, “pont,” as the tooth being replaced is called a pontic. Before placing a bridge, the teeth on either side of the missing tooth must be prepared by removing layers of tooth enamel. Three new teeth are then crafted as a single unit from dental porcelain and/or precious metals with crowns on either side of the pontic. The pontic is held in place when the crowns are placed. Bridgework is at risk for gum disease and tooth decay and requires careful maintenance.

As with most dental procedures you have options and choices. Luckily, when it comes to determining whether a bridge or an implant will work best for you, you can rely upon our expertise. However, by having a clear understanding of these two options you are now better prepared for working with us should you require this treatment option. To learn more read the article, “Implants Vs. Bridgework.” Or, contact us to discuss your questions or to schedule an appointment.