Bridges vs. Dental Implants

Have you lost a permanent tooth? If so, you are in good company. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, 69% of Americans aged 35 to 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth to an accident, tooth decay, gum disease or a failed root canal.

If you have lost one or more teeth as the result of an injury or periodontal disease, you may feel self-conscious about your smile. With modern technology there is no need to avoid smiling or cover your mouth when laughing. Today dental implants and fixed bridges are two of the most common treatment options for replacing missing teeth.

A fixed dental bridge is a non-removable prosthesis attached to remaining natural teeth. The false tooth or teeth literally bridge the gap between natural teeth. Bridges can improve chewing ability, pronunciation, aesthetics, and boost self-esteem. For a long time, fixed bridges were the best option for people who had lost teeth.

Unfortunately, bridges can also present some problems because the natural teeth that lie on either side of the bridge are filed down to accept the prosthetic. This step of the solution may make surrounding teeth prone to bacterial plaque accumulations, decay, periodontal disease, and the possibility of future root canals. Bridge-wearers must be careful to clean well under the appliance to avoid such complications. Recurrent decay, gum disease and wear and tear often doom fixed bridgework to early failure. For these reasons, fixed bridges usually need to be replaced every seven to 15 years.

If you are missing teeth and your gums and jaw are healthy, you may benefit from dental implants. Composed of titanium metal that “fuses” with the jawbone through a process called osseointegration, implants are surgically placed into the jawbone then topped with a natural white crown—so they look and feel like your real teeth. Two or more implants can easily serve as a base of support for several replacement teeth. 

Because the dental implant fuses with the jawbone, the procedure actually helps prevent gum and bone deterioration, jawbone recession, and facial collapse. Better yet, dental implants can last for 20 years or more with proper oral hygiene.

In short, dental implants are revolutionizing lives by helping people rediscover the confidence to eat, speak, and laugh. Though implants cost a little more than bridges in the short run, people who opt for dental implants generally feel better, look better and live better in the long run.

Whether you and your health care provider decide on a fixed bridge or dental implants, rest assured there’s no need to go through life with missing teeth.

Dentures vs. Dental Implants

Have you lost a permanent tooth? If so, you are in good company.

According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, 69% of Americans aged 35 to 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth to an accident, tooth decay, gum disease or a  failed root canal. Today dental implants and dentures are two of the most common treatment options for replacing missing teeth.

sketch of the denture

Removable dentures, commonly called false teeth, are prosthetic devices that simply rest on the gum line supported by the surrounding soft and hard tissues of the oral cavity. Dentures can improve chewing ability, pronunciation, aesthetics, and boost self-esteem. As a non-invasive solution, they are a great option for people whose gums and jaw are weak or unhealthy.

Although quality has improved greatly since the Etruscans in northern Italy first made dentures out of human and animal teeth around 500 BC, conventional dentures still present many challenges. Since they are typically held in place with a (sometimes unpleasant) fixative, dentures can slip out of place, causing discomfort and embarrassing clicking sounds while eating and speaking. Lower teeth are particularly prone to slippage which can lead to gum irritation and sores. Furthermore dentures can cause bone loss, and improperly fitted partial dentures can promote infection and decay in adjoining teeth. Dentures are a high maintenance solution that require daily cleaning and replacement every seven to 15 years.

If you are missing teeth and your gums and jaw are healthy, you may benefit from dental implants. Composed of titanium metal that “fuses” with the jawbone through a process called osseointegration, implants are surgically placed into the jawbone then topped with a natural white crown—so they look and feel like your real teeth.

Dental implant with crown

In contrast to dentures, implants never slip, make embarrassing noises, or decay. Because the dental implant fuses with the jawbone, the procedure actually helps prevent gum and bone deterioration, jawbone recession, and facial collapse. Patients enjoy a diet without restrictions and report that implants eliminate the day-to-day frustrations of ill-fitting dentures. Better yet,  dental implants can last for 20 years or more with proper oral hygiene. 

In short, dental implants are revolutionizing lives by helping people rediscover the confidence to eat, speak, and laugh. Whether you have lost a tooth (or multiple teeth) as the result of an injury or periodontal disease, dental implants provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel and function like natural teeth. Though implants cost a little more than dentures in the short run, people who opt for dental implants generally feel better, look better and live better in the long run.

Whether you and your health care provider decide on traditional dentures or dental implants, rest assured there’s no need to go through life with missing teeth!

Dental Implants in the Titanium Age

Believe it or not, implantable fixtures to replace teeth are not a new concept. Archeologists have uncovered evidence of dental implants in many advanced ancient cultures including the Mayans (shells), Chinese (bamboo), Egyptians (gold wire), and Romans (cast-iron). Other materials used for ancient implants include rubber, ivory, copper, and semi-precious stones.

However, it is titanium that makes previous treatment options like dentures and bridges ancient history. Used in surgery since the 1940s, titaniums biocompatibility makes it the metal of choice for both doctors and dentists alike. It is the same material used for tried-and-true medical procedures like hip/knee replacements and pacemakers.

Dental implants consist of tiny titanium posts surgically implanted into the jawbone and topped with a natural white crown. If you consider the implants and bone the foundation, then the crowns and prosthetics would be houses. 

Modern implants rely on osseointegration, the biologic process where bone fuses tightly to the surface of specific materials such as titanium and some ceramics. Unlike prosthetic devises like dentures and fixed bridges, this strong foundation can support physical loads for decades without failure.

While titanium may seem like a material best suited for spacecraft, it is in fact safe and effective in the human body as well.

Why Dental Insurance Really Means Dental Benefit

by Sam Morgan, Practice Administrator

If you don’t work in healthcare — or even if you do — you may not understand your dental insurance. I know I didn’t understand any of my benefits when I worked in the corporate world.

It is very commonplace and normal to think that if you have dental insurance, you should be covered for your normal hygiene maintenance procedures and any needed surgeries. Unfortunately, this is not the case. So, let’s take a few minutes to review some dental insurance basics:

  1. Dental insurance is really a dental benefit that is allotted to you each year. These benefits usually run on a calendar year but sometimes run on different 12 month cycle.
  2. We call dental insurance a dental benefit because, unlike most health plans, there is a defined or limited amount of benefit available to you each year.
  3. Coverage for dental benefits under companies, plans, and groups will vary. Dental benefits are most commonly covered at a percentage of the fee charged by your dental professional. For instance, Sally may have 80% coverage with Company A for a cleaning while Bill has 60% coverage for the same cleaning under Company B.
  4. Routine cleanings, exams, and x-rays are all covered at different levels within dental insurance companies. You should be aware of frequency limitations in the number of times per year (or any defined time period) that these services can be performed.
  5. To find out exactly what may — or may not — be covered and at what percentage it is covered, you may want to request that your dental professional file a Pre-Authorization or Pre-Determination prior to a procedure. This is a recommendation based on procedure code and your dental insurance company requirements.
  6. You should receive an Explanation of Benefits (EOB) each time your dental Insurance is billed for a procedure. If you don’t receive this information, you should contact your dental insurance company for a copy. If you have any trouble understanding your EOB, I recommend that you contact your dental professional for help understanding the document.
  7. Common language you may hear in a dental office, on the phone with your dental insurance company, or see on a Explanation of Benefits includes
  • Dentist = Provider
  • Insurance Company = Carrier
  • ADA Code = Dental Code, a four digit number that follows a D (e.g., D0120)
  • EOB = Explanation of Benefits
  • Maxed Out = patient has utilized all of their benefits for the year
  • Frequency = number of times a procedure may be performed within a defined time period

The bottom line is that insurance is constantly changing, and it can be very complicated to understand. However, it is important to understand your benefits. Ask questions of your carrier and your provider. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t understand or even if you need it explained more than once.

Each year, you may go through Open Enrollment at work. Take that opportunity to speak with your HR department and your dental professional about the options available to you.

History of Dental Implants

Since tooth loss is nothing new to man, it should come as no surprise that humans have been searching for replacement solutions since the stone age. Although ancient cultures didn’t have access to state-of-the-art treatments available at modern periodontal offices, they tried their best with the materials on hand.

The first known dental implant is attributed to the Mayans around 600 AD. In 1931, an archeologist in Honduras discovered the mandible of a Mayan woman in her twenties. Surprisingly, three of her teeth were made from pieces of shell as opposed to bone. For decades scientists believed that the shells were inserted after death in preparation for the afterlife, but in 1970 radiographic studies by dental scholar Amadeo Bobbeo confirmed the pieces of shell had melded with Mayan’s jawbone. This fusion, known as osseointegration, can only occur in living beings.

Archeologists have also uncovered evidence of dental implants in other advanced ancient cultures including the Chinese (bamboo), Egyptians (gold wire), and Romans (cast-iron). Other materials used for ancient implants include rubber, ivory, copper, and semi-precious stones.

Modern implants were born as the result of groundbreaking research at Cambridge University in the 1950s. Swedish orthopedic surgeon Per-Ingvar Brånemark discovered that titanium fused to the soft tissue of rabbit ears. Dr. Brånemark realized that similar conditions exist in the human mouth and performed the first modern dental implant in 1965.

Today implants have a success rate of about 98% with proper homecare — a statistic that our ancestors would truly envy.

What Is a Dental Implant?

Let’s face it. Loosing a tooth, no matter what the cause can be embarrassing, make chewing difficult and affect your self-esteem. Dental implants simply provide a foundation for replacement teeth and are revolutionizing how dental professionals restore teeth that look and function like natural teeth. Implants are changing the way our patients live by giving them the confidence to eat, speak, laugh and enjoy life in comfort.

Since the implant is the root of the tooth, let’s take a look at the three components that make up the finished product: 


  1. Implant — a tiny titanium post that is surgically implanted into the jawbone
  2. Abutment — a conical shaped device that is the connective element between the implant and the crown
  3. Crown — an artificial tooth that is customized for the patient to provide a natural appearance

 

Every patient is unique, and implants are needed for a variety of reasons. Appearance, structure and support for surrounding teeth, and overall facial structure are three of the most common reasons. Once you have lost a tooth, you may experience further bone loss and surrounding teeth can begin to move. If you are experiencing bone loss, you may need a bone graft or ridge augmentation. Once that process is complete an implant can be placed.  

If you fear the dentist, let me reassure you that placement of an implant is an easy process for the patient with a very short recovery time. After placement of the implant, we look for a process called osseointegration to occur. This is the fusion with the jawbone that makes dental implants a lasting solution and strong support mechanism for replacement teeth. Unlike dentures that rest on the gum line, implants never slip or make embarrassing noises that advertise the fact that a person has “false teeth.”

Most adults missing teeth find dental implants to be the best solution since they allow replacement teeth to blend seamlessly with surrounding teeth and they help preserve the structure of the patients mouth. As long as a patient is not medically compromised, proper homecare is conducted and implant maintenance procedures are followed, there is a success rate of about 98%.