Dental bridges have been used successfully to replace a single missing tooth or several missing teeth for many years and often provide excellent durability and aesthetics. However, in many cases bridgework necessitates the drilling and preparation of otherwise sound or lightly filled teeth either side of the missing tooth or teeth a bridge. Hence dental implants have gained polarity in the replacement of single and multiple missing teeth as they allow for restoration of the missing teeth without compromising the other teeth in a patient’s mouth. So dental implants often offer a more modern, conservative treatment method.
In the case of simple dental implant placement, with little or no grafting (for example to replace a single missing back tooth, or an immediate implant to replace a failing tooth) there is little or no post-operative discomfort or swelling. Patients will be able to continue life as normal with little inconvenience. A soft diet for a few days and careful brushing of the affected area may be all that is required.
The main advantage of single tooth implants versus a bridge is that the affected tooth or teeth can be replaced without any interference to the teeth on either side. Another significant benefit is oral hygiene: bridge teeth are joined together so it is more difficult to floss in between the teeth, unlike natural teeth or implant crowns.
Good quality bridgework that was fitted by an expert and that is well maintained should provide excellent long-term service. If a bridge fails it is usually due to decay or leakage under the crowns on the supporting teeth, or sometimes due to fracture of one or more of these teeth. If the cause can be successfully treated and the teeth are still maintainable, new bridgework can be made. If the supporting teeth are untenable, dental implant-supported crowns and/or bridges are usually recommended as an alternative solution.
There are several different types of fixed bridgework or bridges: