If you don’t have dental insurance, you’re not alone. About 74 million Americans have no dental coverage, according to the National Association of Dental Plans. That's around 23% of the population, or more than double the percentage that lacks health insurance.1
The health of your mouth and your teeth can impact your overall health. If you don’t take good care of your mouth and your teeth, you could be putting your overall health at risk.2 This may be due to the fact that people without dental benefits are more likely to have extractions and dentures and less likely to have restorative care or receive treatment for gum disease.3
Deciding how to replace a missing tooth can be difficult for most people. You didn’t want to lose a tooth in the first place. Now, you must decide whether to replace it with a dental bridge or an implant.
What are the differences between dental bridges and implants?
A dental bridge consists of a false tooth or teeth that are permanently attached to the teeth on either side of the space.1 The false tooth replaces the missing tooth. Much like a bridge over a river, the false tooth “bridges” across the space left by the missing tooth and is held in place by the natural teeth on either side of the gap, called abutments.
An implant is like a false root that the dentist places into the jaw bone where the natural tooth was removed.2 Over a few weeks’ time, the bone and gums grow around and through the implant, anchoring it in place, just like the root of the tooth that was removed. Your dentist then places a crown over the top of the implant that functions exactly like a natural tooth.
Both dental bridges and implants can replace one or more teeth. They are both cemented permanently into your mouth and do not come in and out like a partial or removable denture. Your overall health and the strength of the remaining teeth and bone factor into the decision of whether bridges or implants will best meet your needs.
Pros and cons of dental bridges
- Dental bridges are a conventional treatment option with a long history of success for many patients.3
- Less expensive than implants
- They can replace teeth in the front or in the back of your mouth.
- While most bridges replace one or two missing teeth that were located next to each other, some can replace multiple teeth.
- Your dentist can usually complete a bridge in two visits - one to prepare the abutment teeth and take impressions with a second visit to cement the bridge in place.
- Require filing down the abutments or healthy teeth on either side of the gap—these might be healthy, sound teeth. Filing the abutment teeth is necessary to attach the false tooth or teeth to them for stability.4
- May be difficult to clean - Food debris and bacteria lodge under the false tooth, between the bridge and the gums. Special cleaning devices or water picks must be used daily to avoid gum infections and unpleasant odors.
Pros and cons of implants
- Do not require any treatments for the teeth on either side of the gap. Those teeth remain untouched.
- An implant is placed into the jawbone where the tooth root was removed.5
- If more than one tooth is missing, you may need several implants.
- You can brush and floss the crowns attached to implants just like a natural tooth.
- Implants cost more than bridges because of the surgery involved and the expense of the implants.6
- Although the surgery to place the implant is usually completed in one visit, it takes several weeks or even months for enough healing to take place for the final crown to be placed.
- Some general dentists prefer to send patients to a specialist for the implant surgery and then have the patient return to them to have the crown placed
Many patients who are missing several teeth opt to have a combination of implants and bridges or full dentures. These have all the advantages of the stability of implants while allowing replacement of up to a full lower or upper set of teeth.
If you are missing all or most of your upper or lower teeth, you can still take advantage of both these treatment options.
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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. It is not dental care advice and should not be substituted for regular consultation with your dentist. If you have any concerns about your dental health, please contact your dentist's office. Guardian Direct plans are underwritten and issued by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America New York, N.Y. or its subsidiaries. Products are not available in all states.