What is the difference between bridges, partials, and dental implants?
As dental professionals, we always like to save teeth if it all possible. However, there are certain circumstances where a tooth cannot or should not be saved and must be removed. In those instances, it is good to know that we have several different options for replacing missing teeth.
An option that many people have heard of is a bridge, or in dentist lingo - fixed partial denture. A bridge usually consists of two or more “abutments” or support teeth that are connected with a “pontic” or fake tooth in between them. The pontic rests over the top of the gums where the tooth is missing. Abutment teeth have to be contoured to a certain shape to be able to hold a bridge. This contouring is very similar to the way that a tooth is prepared for a dental crown. The bridge is cemented in place and does not come in and out.
Bridges are a good option when you have teeth on either side of a missing tooth so that these teeth can serve as abutments. We prefer to do bridges in areas where the potential abutment teeth either already have crowns or have extensive fillings. This is because we don’t like to cut a perfectly healthy tooth in order to contour it to fit the bridge.
Dental implants are another option that we have to replace missing teeth. Dental implants are essentially titanium tooth roots that go back into the place where a tooth is missing. A crown is then placed on top of the implant so that it looks, functions, and feels like any other tooth.
Dental implants are more conservative than bridges because they only involve replacing the missing tooth/ teeth, and do not involve the adjacent teeth. They are also a great option for people who have a history with frequent cavities. It is impossible to get a cavity on a dental implant. Unfortunately, teeth can decay under a bridge.
A third option we have to replace missing teeth is called a partial, or a removable partial denture. As the name implies, a partial is removable. It is designed to be worn all day but should be removed at night. The partial is designed with a metal or acrylic framework that snaps around your existing teeth with clasps. The framework also lays over your gums where you are missing teeth and has some fake teeth sitting on top.
A partial is the most economical option to replace teeth, especially if you are missing multiple teeth. However, some people don’t like the idea of something removable in their mouth. Others have trouble adapting to the bulkiness of the partial.
Call our office if you would like to discuss replacing your missing teeth. We also have great new high-tech options if you are missing all of your teeth in one or both arches. We look forward to meeting you.