When a tooth is extracted, it is important to replace that tooth so that its opposing tooth has something to push against. It also prevents the neighboring teeth from shifting into the open space. The options for replacing a tooth are an implant or a bridge.
An implant is a metal post that is surgically placed into the jaw, functioning as a tooth’s root. Once the implant post heals, which is about 3-4 months after placement, the crown is placed to complete the implant process.
A bridge is normally a 3-unit piece that connects the adjacent teeth next to the missing tooth by creating 3 crowns and splinting them together like the picture above. It closes the gap and create a tooth for the missing space.
Pros and Cons
The best option for replacing a tooth is an implant because it helps to maintain bone thickness and height. It is much easier to floss and clean because it recreates a single tooth that was lost instead of splinting it to another tooth.
A bridge only replaces the part of the tooth that is seen above the gum. Therefore, the bone will deteriorate in time making placing an implant in the future more complicated and may require additional surgery to add more bone volume. A bridge requires the two adjacent teeth to be filed down to anchor it. If these two teeth are healthy and in good condition, we would be sacrificing these teeth to replace the missing tooth. Bridges are also more challenging to keep clean, because a flosser is required to properly floss underneath the bridge.
An important factor when considering an implant vs a bridge, is cost. An implant usually costs more than a bridge. However, if properly maintained, an implant can last a lifetime. Bridges can also last a very long time; however, if a bridge fails, all three-units would need to be replaced. Bridges can end up being more costly in the long-run.