Bridges, crown and implants: differences, procedure and costs
Implants and dental bridges are an effective way of closing gaps in your teeth. This not only increases the quality of life of those affected. It can also guarantee your dental health if you act quickly. Dental crowns, on the other hand, are suitable for teeth that are still present, but where normal tooth fillings are no longer sufficient due to severe tooth decay. In order to decide whether to use a bridge or an implant, it is best to compare the two methods.
Advantages and disadvantages of bridges, crowns and implants
As the name suggests, dental bridges are bridges for the teeth. There are different forms of dental bridges, but the easiest way to explain it is as follows: the tooth gap (1 or 2 teeth wide) is surrounded on both sides by teeth that are still healthy. The directly adjacent teeth are used as the "bridge abutments", onto which the fixed dentures are attached. The "bridge" – that is, the part in the tooth gap – is thus firmly anchored.
The dental bridge is ideal as a replacement for a tooth. It is seldom used for larger tooth gaps, as then it is often no longer stable. Please also note that the abutment teeth must be healthy and have strong roots in order to serve as reliable fixation points. If they are, this can preserve both the chewing function and the health of the jaw and surrounding joints.
Types of dental bridges
First of all, we can distinguish between the various materials. Since a bridge has to withstand considerable chewing loads, the material must also be very resilient, of course. The most commonly used materials are:
Traditional bridge: a gap between two teeth is closed with the help of the bridge. This method is also suitable for the front teeth
Cantilever bridge: here, the gap is not between the teeth but on the edge of the dentition. The cantilever bridge is supported by several abutment teeth on the preserved side
Telescopic bridge: in contrast to the fixed bridges, the combined denture can be removed. The bridge is attached to the abutment copings that were previously put in place
Hybrid bridge: this type is used for larger gaps in teeth and is a hybrid of a dental bridge and a dental implant
We also distinguish between different types of dental bridges:
Ceramic: zirconia all-ceramic is the material most commonly used today
Gold (with or without veneer): has become very rare because the price is very high
Steel (with or without veneer): not completely harmless to health, but inexpensive
Dental bridge: course of treatment
Step 1: Thorough examination of the teeth and creation of an impression
Step 2: The "abutment" teeth are filed. We also decided on the colour and shape of the bridge. A temporary denture is used to protect the teeth
Step 3: Intermediate testing of the dental bridge. Here, we check whether the bridge triggers feelings of tension and whether the fit is perfect
Step 4: The bridge is put in place. The accuracy of the fit is checked again. If everything goes as planned, the two ends of the bridge are firmly glued to the abutment teeth
What is a dental crown?
A dental crown is one of the most common dental treatments. It is used either when a tooth is severely affected by decay and conventional fillings are no longer sufficient, or when a piece of the tooth has broken off.
The crown replaces parts of the tooth, whether smaller or larger, and is therefore classed as a form of fixed denture. Care is taken to reproduce the original shape of the tooth, so that it is as natural as possible to wear, while the aesthetics of the teeth are restored. A tooth crown is optimally suited for both incisors and the remaining teeth.
Dental crown materials
Different materials can be used for making dental crowns. The material used for the tooth crown depends on the tooth in question. A molar, for example, has to withstand heavy loads, while the most important thing for incisors is an aesthetic appearance. The following materials can be used for dental crowns:
Ceramic: a ceramic crown offers the advantage of being very similar to the natural colour of the teeth, while it is also antibacterial and non-sensitive to temperature. The most stable ceramic variant is zirconium. However, the price of a zirconium tooth crown is significantly higher than those for other materials.
Metal: a distinction is made here between alloys that contain precious metals and those that do not (non-precious metal) alloys. Metal crowns are very stable and durable. Nevertheless, they disturb the aesthetics considerably, which is why they are mainly used in molars. Gold crowns are now very expensive, but non-precious metal alloys are cheaper.
Plastic: this material is cheap, but unfortunately it does not withstand heavy loads. Plastic crowns are therefore mainly suitable as a temporary solution.
Veneers: so-called "veneer crowns" are combinations of metals with a ceramic layer. This makes them very stable and also gives them a very natural appearance.
Dental crowns: course of treatment
How long does it take to insert a crown? The following procedure is standard when crowning a tooth:
Step 1: The affected tooth is prepared, that is, filed down
Step 2: An impression is now made of the affected site
Step 3: A temporary crown protects the tooth until the crown is completed
Step 4: The crown is manufactured in special laboratories
Step 5: To permanently connect it, the crown is either glued or cemented to the tooth. The duration of each individual step is only a few minutes, generally (preparation of the tooth, approx. 10 minutes, and insertion of the crown, approx. 15–30 minutes). The entire process takes about 1 week, depending on how quickly the dental crown can be made in the special laboratory. Fluctuations in the time schedule are therefore highly possible when getting a tooth crown.
What is a dental implant?
Unlike with a dental bridge, a dental implant is able to close larger gaps in tooth, i.e., where several teeth are missing. An artificial tooth root (= implant) is then surgically inserted into the jawbone. This serves as a support for the dentures. The structure of the dental implant is as follows:
Implant body = artificial tooth root
Implant abutment = connecting piece between implant and denture
Implant crown (superstructure) = visible dentures
Well-made dental implants cannot be distinguished from natural teeth and are also marked by very high stability. Furthermore, they can also be used to counteract bone loss, as the chewing forces are transmitted directly to the jawbone through the implant.
Types of dental implants
Dental implants differ according to their material, their shape, their positioning in the jaw and how they are implanted in the jaw. With respect to the shape of implants, it is screw implants that are most commonly used. The implant takes the form of a screw in this case. There are only a few materials that can be used if you want to ensure that it fuses solidly with the surrounding tissue and bones:
Ceramic: ceramic implants were mainly used in previous times. However, they are not suitable as implants (artificial tooth roots), because the material is relatively brittle.
Titanium: this material is ideal because it does not cause any incompatibilities, and it does not break. What's more, titanium is able to attach firmly to the jawbone. Titanium implants are thus the most widely used today.
Zirconium dioxide: zirconium dioxide is a very stable, non-metallic material that has become particularly popular in dental crowns. In comparison to titanium, however, initial results show poorer inward growth into the surrounding tissue and into the jawbone.
Dental implant: course of treatment
The process of putting in place an implant and attaching the denture to it takes several months. The normal procedure for a dental implant is as follows:
Step 1: Detailed consultation and preparation of an individual treatment plan based on the initial findings
Step 2: Precise images of the jaw are taken, and the exact positioning of the implant is planned
Step 3: The implant is inserted under local anaesthesia. This procedure is carried out on an outpatient basis. If you are having multiple implants, several sessions may well be necessary
Step 4: The healing phase of the implant in the jawbone lasts an average of 3–6 months. During this time, the implant fuses together with the tissue and jawbone, forming one entity.
Step 5: After the healing phase, the actual dentures can then be attached to the implant. The "new" tooth should feel like a normal tooth
Cost of dental treatment
The cost of dental treatment can quickly become very high, especially if very good materials are used. This can initially act as a deterrent for those affected. But you should know that dentures not only improve quality of life, but also contribute to dental health.
How much does a dental bridge cost?
Depending on the type of treatment and the material used, the cost of a dental bridge can be between £ 300 and £ 2,500.
How much does a dental crown cost?
Depending on the type of treatment and the material used, the cost of a dental crown is between £ 300 and £ 1000 (own share of costs).
How much does a dental implant cost?
With dental implants, the costs depend on the material used, the number of implants required and the type of treatment chosen. The costs for a single tooth can be between £ 1,400 and £ 2,000 (own share f costs); with removable dentures, the prices rise to up to £ 13,000.
How long does a dental bridge last?
If careful looked after, dental bridges stand out for their very long durability. This can be between 15 and 25 years.
How long does a crown last?
The durability of a tooth crown depends on the material used and the health of the underlying tooth. If that tooth is affected by decay, for example, the crown will no longer be able to be held stable. All the same, a crown should last for around 20 years if it is perfectly manufactured and inserted. If that is not the case, it may have to be replaced after 5 years.
How long will a dental implant last?
In the best case scenario, the durability of a dental implant is unlimited. This means that an implant can be worn for a lifetime. However, if you have poor oral hygiene or if you smoke, this time can be considerably reduced.
Complications and pain
Dental treatment does not always go as desired. Pain or other complications may occur, especially after the treatment. With crowns, for example, the nerve of the tooth can get irritated in a few cases, which primarily causes pressure pain. But bacterial infections can also be the cause of pain.
If pain occurs with dental bridges, this indicates that the bridge may have loosened, decay may have developed on the edge of the crown, or the tooth nerve may be irritated, or the gums inflamed. Pain under the bridge, in particular, suggests the latter.
With dental implants, pain is a sign that there may be inflammation. Careful: even if the dental implant is only slightly loose, you should take this seriously and visit a dentist as soon as possible!
We also strongly advise visiting a dental practice in the event of other complications. These include: the tooth crown creaking off, tooth decay under the crown, a dental implant being rejected, a dental implant breaking off, etc.
Alternative dental treatments
Dental bridges are often suggested as an alternative to implants, and vice versa. There are advantages and disadvantages to every type of dental treatment, but it is best to discuss them with your dentist. Whether or not dental fillings are a sufficient alternative for dental crowns also needs to be clarified professionally.