If you have one or more missing teeth, but the majority of the other teeth are still present, it may be decided to replace the missing teeth with either a bridge or an implant.
A bridge is a unit that allows for a link from one end of a space that is missing teeth to another, thus it "bridges the gap" for a missing tooth/teeth. The teeth at either end of an empty space are prepared for crowns, and then a crown is made for both of these teeth with the false teeth fused in the middle.
A bridge is best suited when there are only one to three missing teeth in an area that have a tooth in the front and back of the space involving the missing teeth.
Requirements for a solid bridge are that the remaining teeth are sufficiently strong to support the weight of chewing for the teeth that are missing. This decision should be made at the discretion of your dentist. For optimal success, a bridge requires careful cleaning with special floss beneath the false teeth, so that the gums and remaining teeth stay healthy and provide a long life for your bridge.
A dental implant is the most lifelike replacement for a missing tooth available in dentistry today.
An implant is a replacement for a tooth that involves replacing the original tooth root, that has been removed, with a false tooth root made of titanium metal.
Implants are placed under anesthesia in a procedure that generally takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Implants heal and fuse with the bone in your mouth for about 4-6 months, depending on the area that the implant is placed and an individual patient's needs. A crown or bridge is placed on the top of the implant(s) to replace the tooth/teeth that are missing.
An implant or multiple implants are best suited when there are teeth missing in an area that does not have teeth surrounding both the front and back of the empty area. Hence, a link is not possible between teeth to make a bridge.
It is also worth considering an implant when the teeth surrounding the area of the missing tooth/teeth do not have much filling material present, and when it is less than desirable to remove tooth structure from these teeth to make a bridge possible.
People congenitally missing teeth or that have randomly fractured just one tooth, may decide an implant is very logical.