Dental bridges, believe it or not, were first used as a form of cosmetic dentistry in 630 BCE by the Etruscans who used dental bridges to display their wealth and status. Today, dental bridges are used solely to replace missing teeth, though when done well, they can transform a smile, giving the wearer more confidence. However, dental bridges are not for everyone.
That's why some patients opt to switch from a dental bridge to dental implants or a single dental implant. Although this is possible, it isn't as simple as just replacing the false tooth with an implant. There are other factors which come into play that might make the whole process more complicated.
It Depends on the Type of Bridge
The first thing to consider is the type of bridge you have. If, for instance, you have a traditional or cantilever bridge, then you also need to think about the abutment teeth that support the bridge. How would those crowned teeth fair on their own? Is there enough bone to support them if they are separated from the bridge? You first need to consult a prosthodontist to evaluate the bone level around the abutment teeth.
In addition, there is also the possibility that the porcelain of the crowned teeth could be damaged during the separation process. If this happens, you would also need to replace the damaged crown, adding more to the overall cost. However, if your bridge is a Maryland bridge which does not require the teeth on either side to be crowned, then replacing the pontic with a dental implant is much less complicated.
What Is the Condition of the Implant Site?
If your bridge is quite old already, there is a good chance that the bone and gum tissue in the area of the false tooth has deteriorated. This is something that cannot be avoided, as when a tooth isn't replaced with a dental implant, the bone naturally shrinks. Gum recession is also a possibility if your gums have reacted to the presence of the false tooth. After all, it is a foreign body.
Before making a decision and before investing any money, you should see a prosthodontist to evaluate the bone and gum tissue of the implant site. If there is insufficient bone or gum tissue, you may first need to have a bone or gum graft, or maybe even both, before you can have an implant installed in your jaw.
If you are fortunate, you may simply be able to add the implant without any need for grafts or crown replacement, keeping the cost down. However, if a crown needs to be replaced and there is insufficient bone at the implant site, the cost could spiral. You then need to consider whether it is worth your time and money to replace the bridge with a dental implant. Contact a dentist for more information.