An implant-supported bridge can replace two or more missing teeth in a row, restoring full form and function to your smile. This restoration is similar to a traditional bridge, however, it is supported by dental implants rather than adjacent healthy teeth. Dental implants provide unparalleled support and stability for restorations, and they help to keep the jawbone strong and healthy after tooth loss.
As an implant-supported bridge relies on dental implants, the jawbone must be strong and dense enough to support implant posts. Patients who have suffered jawbone atrophy as a result of prolonged tooth loss may require a bone graft or sinus lift prior to treatment. You may qualify for an implant-supported bridge if you:
- Have two to three consecutive teeth missing
- Are looking for a permanent tooth replacement solution
- Are in good oral health and free from periodontal issues
- Are in good physical health and do not suffer from diseases that may compromise healing
- Do not smoke
The best way to determine if you are a good candidate is to meet with a qualified dentist or oral surgeon. Your doctor can conduct a thorough examination to determine whether your gums, jawbone, and nearby teeth are healthy enough for surgery. Your doctor may also reference x-rays or other advanced images to determine the most suitable placement for implants.
What Happens after Tooth Loss?
Tooth loss can be challenging, as it significantly impacts your daily life. Missing teeth not only affect the aesthetics and function of your smile. They can also take a serious toll on your oral health. Healthy teeth stimulate the jawbone with each bite you take. However, when a tooth is lost, the jawbone no longer receives stimulation, and vital nutrients are rerouted to other areas of the body. As a result, the jawbone begins to deteriorate and remaining teeth can shift out of place to fill in the gap.
An implant-supported bridge will look and feel like your natural teeth.
Unaddressed tooth loss can lead to dental misalignment, jaw pain, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), and structural changes to the face. While traditional dental bridges provide a quick and affordable solution, these restorations cannot counteract bone degeneration.
The Structure of an Implant-Supported Bridge
An implant-supported bridge rests atop two dental implants, which are embedded in the jaw.
The Gold Standard of Tooth Replacement
Dental implants are small titanium posts that mimic former tooth roots. After placement, they become a permanent part of your anatomy. In conjunction with implant-supported restorations, dental implants stimulate the jawbone and promote bone regrowth. As a result, they can protect the longevity of your smile, prevent more widespread tooth loss, and preserve your oral health.
What to Expect during the Procedure
Before you can receive your restoration, you must first undergo dental implant surgery. To ensure your comfort, the dentist can administer local anesthesia to numb the area. You may also elect to receive sedation if you feel especially nervous about treatment. During surgery, the dentist will insert dental implants into the jawbone through small pilot holes in the gums before closing the incisions with sutures.
Over the next three to six months, the implant posts will fuse with the jawbone. This process, known as osseointegration, is integral to the success of treatment. Once your gums have fully healed, you can return to the office for a minor follow-up procedure to place abutments. These small devices will connect the implants to the bridge. Recovery typically takes about two weeks, after which your dentist can take impressions of your teeth. These will be used to fabricate your custom bridge. Once your restoration is ready, your dentist can check to ensure it does not disrupt your bite before securing the bridge to the abutments. With your bridge in place, you can feel confident in the structure and function of your smile.
Factors Affecting the Cost of Implant-Supported Bridges
The cost of an implant-supported bridge will depend on several factors, including:
- Doctor’s experience: Typically, doctors with more experience charge more for their services than those who are new to the field. It is also important to keep in mind that not every dentist can place dental implants. Some dentists refer patients to an oral surgeon for implant placement and then restore implants once they have healed. Working with more than one doctor can increase the cost of treatment. However, choosing experienced medical professionals can lower your risk for complications and provide better results.
- Preliminary procedures: If bone grafting or sinus lift surgery is necessary prior to implant surgery, you can expect a higher cost of treatment.
- Number of implants: The number of implants required will impact the cost. Placing a single implant ranges from $1,600 to $2,200.
- Type of materials: Dental bridges can be composed of a variety of materials, including porcelain and zirconia. The more durable and lifelike the material, the greater the cost. However, dentists and patients alike consider implant-supported bridges an invaluable investment into your long-term oral health.
Although implant-supported bridges cost more than traditional bridges, many dentists accept third party financing or offer payment plans to help make this vital treatment more affordable.
Benefits of Implant-Supported Bridges
Implant-supported bridges provide invaluable benefits, including:
- Improved Self-Confidence: You no longer have to feel self-conscious about tooth loss. After treatment, you can engage in life more freely, laugh openly, and smile confidently.
- Better Oral Health: Implants help counteract bone atrophy and prevent other serious complications after tooth loss.
- Lifelike and Lasting Results: An implant-supported bridge will look and feel like your natural teeth. While you will have to replace the restoration after several years, dental implants are designed to last a lifetime.
- Complete Dental Function: Tooth loss can make it difficult to enunciate clearly and chew comfortably. An implant-supported bridge can restore full dental function.
As an implant-retained bridge is entirely customized to your smile, it can provide optimal comfort and security.