While the general rule that more implants is better nearly always holds true, implant bridges work very well. A dental implant bridge is quite similar to a bridge on regular teeth except the implants will not decay, and instead of the bridge sitting on natural teeth it sits on implant abutments. Implant bridges can be a great way to reduce the costs associated with replacing multiple missing teeth when a removable option isn’t desirable.
However, just as with natural teeth, the implants can only support so many missing teeth, and in our office we usually opt to error on the conservative side. In traditional dentistry, we never want to replace more missing teeth than we are using to support the bridge. For example, 2 natural teeth can be used to support a 4-unit bridge (2 missing teeth and 2 abutment teeth). With implant dentistry, depending on the patient (age, size, bone density), the rules are roughly the same. Implants do perform better when they are splinted together, and this is one reason why implant bridges are desirable. Implant bridges should only be performed by practitioners experienced in implant dentistry, because the procedure is not easy to perform.
Of course implant bridges must be cleaned thoroughly on a daily basis. Although the implants will not decay, poor oral hygiene can lead to peri-implantitis and possible even implant loss. We recommend patients use Water Piks or another type of oral irrigator if they are not proficient in flossing their mouths on a daily basis. Also, because of the increased force, we rarely immediately load dental implants in bridges before they have been given a chance to osseointegrate.
Thank you for reading this posting of the Kansas City Dental Implant Blog.