Q: Is it better to replace a missing tooth with a bridge or an implant and crown?
A: If I or someone in my family were to lose a tooth I would have and/or recommend the implant and crown option. When a tooth is lost and there is sufficient bone available, a root-form implant with a crown essentially puts that tooth back. These days with the new bone-friendly surfaces on implants the missing tooth can often be replaced the same day with predictable long term stability. In fact, in some cases a problem or fractured tooth can be removed, an implant placed and a new crown connected at the same appointment.
Placing a bridge, on the other hand, usually requires attaching the new replacement tooth to the two (at least two) adjacent teeth one on either side of the missing one. If those other two teeth are in need of work placing the necessary crown/cap on them for a bridge may be advisable anyway. Nevertheless a bridge has the two teeth on either side supporting the false tooth and taking the load of all three teeth. This works o.k. for single missing teeth but if a problem in either of the supporting teeth arises then the problem now involves the whole bridge.
Dental studies have consistently reported the generally accepted average lifespan for a bridge is seven to perhaps ten years. And the longer the space the bridge spans (the more teeth missing) the more likely complications will eventually arise.
If the neighboring teeth adjacent to the missing/problem one are healthy and unlikely to need anything else (e.g. a virgin, healthy tooth) then a bridge is not advisable or indicated. An implant with a crown definitely is.
In addition, (without predisposing health contraindications like smoking and others) implants are proving themselves to be one of the longest lasting and most reliable procedures available when done correctly. Studies are beginning to show their longevity to be significantly more predictable than that which a bridge will often will often provide.
Enjoy your smile…..Everybody else does!