Tooth loss is extremely common. It’s estimated that 69 percent of adults 35 to 44 have lost at least one adult tooth. By age 74, about a quarter of Americans lose all of their adult teeth.

When you lose a tooth, it’s essential to get a proper replacement to keep the rest of your teeth aligned. Replacement teeth can also help you maintain your facial shape and avoid difficulties with eating or speaking. Two of the most common options are dental bridges and implants.

Dental bridges are false teeth held in place by the teeth around your missing tooth. They’re usually made from materials like porcelain or plastic to match your natural tooth color. They can cover one or several missing teeth.

Dental implants are artificial tooth roots usually made from titanium. They’re mounted into your jawbone with screws to hold a crown or bridge in place.

Let’s compare the pros and cons of dental implants and bridges. We’ll also look at factors that can help you determine which option is better for you.

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Dental implants are artificial teeth implanted that allow bone to grow around the implant. Dental bridges are used to close the gap between missing teeth using crowns and artificial teeth. Illustration by Wenzdai Figueroa

Dental implants and bridges can both potentially deliver natural-looking results, but they come with their own benefits and drawbacks. Here’s a look at how these two tooth replacement options compare.

Dental bridge pros

  • likely to be covered by insurance
  • doesn’t require bone grafting or invasive surgery
  • usually lower upfront cost than dental implants
  • usually requires only two visits to your dentist spread over a couple of weeks

Dental bridge cons

  • has to be replaced about every 5 to 7 years (although can last more than 10 years)
  • loses a natural-looking appearance with age
  • more cavities and tooth decay in surrounding teeth than with implants
  • can damage the healthy teeth around the missing tooth
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Dental implant pros

  • can last 15 years or more and are the longest lasting option on the market
  • retain natural-looking appearance longer than bridges
  • don’t damage the healthy teeth around the implant
  • very high 10-year success rate, around 97 percent

Dental implant cons

  • less likely to be covered by insurance
  • process can take up to 6 months
  • higher upfront cost
  • may lead to surgical complications
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Dental bridges are generally cheaper upfront than implants and insurance is more likely to cover at least some of the cost. The prices can vary depending on:

  • the type of implant or bridge you’re receiving
  • the material used
  • the extensiveness of the procedure
  • where you live

According to the American Dental Association, a low-end dental bridge costs about $500 per tooth while more expensive bridges are up to $1,200. However, this doesn’t include the price of the dental crown that attaches the tooth to your nearby teeth. A crown can be another $500 to $2,500 per tooth.

Dental implants usually cost about $3,000 to $4,500 per tooth. Insurance is less likely to cover the cost of implants.

Even though implants cost more upfront, they tend to age better than bridges and don’t need to be replaced as often.

A dentist can advise you about the best tooth replacement for your situation. The best option for you depends on your budget, how many teeth you’re missing, and your overall health.

Cost

If you have dental insurance, it’s more likely that it will cover a dental bridge than an implant. If you don’t have insurance and both options are out of your price range, you may want to also talk to a dentist about partial dentures or other options.

Number of missing teeth

If you’re missing more than one consecutive tooth, a dental bridge is likely a better option than an implant. A separate implant needs to be surgically attached to your jawbone for each missing tooth, leading to expensive and often impractical surgery.

Overall health

Dental implants require surgery, so they may not be an option for people with medical conditions that slow down healing, such as diabetes or leukemia.

The best candidates for dental implants are in good overall health and have a jawbone free of decay that’s healthy enough to support the implant.

Time

The entire process of getting a dental implant can take months while a dental bridge can be installed in two trips to your dentist spread over a couple of weeks.

When getting a dental implant, an oral surgeon will drill into your jawbone and attach the root of the implant to the bone. They may insert a temporary denture while you wait for the bone to heal.

You’ll then have to wait anywhere 2 to 6 months for the bone to heal before a crown can be added.

Bridges and implants aren’t the only options for replacing a lost tooth. Partial dentures and space maintainers may also be used.

Partial dentures

Partial dentures are usually made of plastic and metal. They fill gaps from one or several missing teeth.

Partial dentures often resemble your natural teeth and clip to your healthy teeth to stay in place. A dentist may recommend a denture when the teeth surrounding your missing tooth aren’t strong enough to support a bridge.

Although they’re generally cheaper than bridges or implants, they usually aren’t as comfortable or stable. They may also interfere with your eating or speaking and need to be cleaned daily.

Space maintainers

Space maintainers may be an option if you can’t afford to replace your tooth right away. They’re usually built from pieces of metal that prevent the teeth on either side of your missing tooth from shifting.

Space maintainers are also commonly used in children to allow adult teeth to emerge unobstructed.

An orthodontic retainer can also be used to keep the space of missing teeth. This will help keep the surrounding teeth from tipping into the space.

Dental implants and bridges are two options for replacing a missing tooth. Dental bridges are more likely to be covered by your insurance and require a smaller upfront cost.

If cost isn’t an issue and you’re in good overall health, dental implants may be the better option since they last longer and don’t damage your surrounding teeth. A dentist can help you determine which option is best for your situation.