Bridges v. Implants

Dentist Office in Raytown and Pleasant Hill, Missouri

Most of us have heard of dental implants but I’m uncertain most of us understand dental implants are grossly underused.

I’ve placed many bridges and continue to use them as a great treatment option when a dental implant is not possible. What’s the problem? The Cleveland Clinic says a dental bridge lasts 5-10 years. That’s awful! Despite a shorter history, studies show dental implants last longer than bridges.

I placed a bridge on my Mom and within 5 years one of the natural supporting teeth (abutments) needed a root canal. Why? One of the causes of a tooth needing a root canal is traumatic occlusion. Traumatic occlusion simply means abnormal or excessive force applied to a tooth or teeth. Sometimes when bridges replace three or four teeth, but are only supported by two natural teeth, one or both of the natural teeth will require a root canal due to the excessive force applied.

Bridges can also fail from decay at the margin (where the porcelain ends and the tooth begins, near the gum line). It is crucial to floss around and under bridges or use a waterpik. Most people don’t do it!

Usually when a problem occurs with one of the supporting teeth in a bridge, the entire bridge is lost. An implant, on the other hand, does not involve adjacent teeth and is therefore independent.

For individuals who continuously struggle with cavities, implants are impervious to dental decay. If you constantly get cavities, DO NOT 

My dental insurance doesn’t cover implants! With or without insurance, over the course of your life an implant will almost always be less expensive. You may save a little money initially by selecting a bridge over an implant, but when that bridge fails and has to be replaced, or worse, you lose.

I still think bridges are a great option when an implant can’t be used. My point is simply that far too often I see patients with failed bridges and they regret not getting an implant. Many of these patients tell me their dentist didn’t suggest an implant or a bridge was less expensive. Today I hear all the time from patients that their dentist told them they couldn’t get an implant because their sinus was too large. It is a fact we can grow bone better in the maxillary sinus than almost anywhere else in the body. What does that mean? Sinuses do not prevent implants from being used.

The Lesson: Before you get a bridge, be very sure a dental implant is not a possibility.


Rob Davis, DDS