When people refer to an implant bridge, they're generally thinking of a dental appliance which restores the crown or visible part of a tooth. This might be for the replacement of one tooth or several in the patient's mouth. As long as there's lots of healthy gum tissue in place, an implant bridge remains a viable option for tooth replacement.
However, whenever a patient undergoes extensive tooth loss, it often causes a number of changes to take place in the shape of the jaw, as well as the gums. All-on-4 implants go a step further by helping to build out the gum line ridge which is immediately adjacent to your natural teeth. In essence, this restores both gums and teeth, which means it supports more than simple tooth anatomy. This kind of structural change happens to be the major difference between an implant bridge and other solutions for tooth replacement.
The ideal time to choose implant bridges is in situations where you're not missing all the teeth on an upper or lower arch, and you still have some that are perfectly stable and healthy. In a situation like this, it may not be the best idea to extract those healthy teeth for the purpose of installing a full-arch prosthesis. It's probably better in most cases to install individual implants between teeth, or to go with an implant-supported bridge.
Implants are typically strong enough to support a considerable amount of weight, so it's much less invasive to install a pair of implants to be used in an implant bridge. For instance, a patient having three missing teeth might be well advised to have two implants installed to support a three-unit bridge. However, if that same situation only involved two missing teeth, it might be better to go with individual implants and crowns for each of the missing teeth.
When it becomes necessary to replace an entire upper or lower arch of teeth, all-on-4 implants become a very realistic option. With this approach, only four to six dental implants would be needed to replace all of your upper or lower teeth. Disregarding wisdom teeth, that means 14 teeth on top or bottom can be replaced just by using four or six implants. Of course, the health of your jaw bone will be a major factor, because it will be necessary to have sufficient mass to support the installation of the titanium posts in the jaw bone.
People who have experienced slightly more bone loss, may require six implants to replace all the upper or lower arch of teeth. That's still a much better option than having to install one implant for each missing tooth, as you would normally have to do. In an all-on-4 operation, implants will be required to support the weight of slightly more than two teeth each, and this is a very predictable and safe arrangement as a dental solution.
These are two of the best tooth replacement strategies available today, and the truth is they have more similarities than differences. First of all, they both rely on dental implants to provide a strong foundation for the tooth replacement which gets installed over them. Both options are an upgrade from dentures, which are not anchored as solidly as these two are. Dentures have the possibility of slipping around inside your mouth and impacting your speech.
Another similarity between implant bridges and all-on-4 implants is that they are very long-lasting, and will hold up very well over a number of years. The specific length of time that either one of them lasts will generally depend on how conscientious a patient is in maintaining them, but inherently they are built to last for a long time. It's very common that implant bridges last as long as 10 or 20 years, and implants generally last throughout the entire lifetime of a patient.
Both of these procedures also have a very high success rate, routinely something well above 96%. That's quite a success rate, when you think about it, especially when compared to the success rate achievable just a few years ago. One last similarity between implant bridges and all-on-4 Dental is the fact that both are more expensive options than conventional dentures.
Dentures are actually one of the least expensive tooth replacement strategies that can be used today, but they do have the drawback of being less well anchored and less reliable in place than either implant bridges or all-on-4 dental implants.