Both Are Attractive Options
From a cosmetic dentistry standpoint, both options can give you very attractive results. In the past, we may have been limited in our ability to restore a damaged tooth in a way that could conceal discoloration within, but today we are able to use all-ceramic crowns that are highly durable and capable of concealing dark tooth material underneath to give an aesthetic white tooth that is not distinguishable from your natural teeth.
Dental implants are also capable of giving the same result. Once completed, your dental implant will look and function just like a natural tooth.
With aesthetics equal, longevity really is the key to deciding whether to restore a tooth or replace it with a dental implant.
Review of Research
The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) recently published a comprehensive review of dental implant and restored tooth survival rates using only studies that included a 15-year or longer follow-up period. Because this is an unusually long follow-up period, it limited the number of studies, but it does give important data. When making any decision about your dentistry, you don’t want to just look at the next three to five years, you want to think long-term and go with the treatment that is going to give you the best long-term results. In total, researchers looked at 19 studies, with 9 studies looking at tooth survival and 10 looking at dental implant survival.
Although the small number of studies and their diversity of design made it impossible for researchers to consolidate all data into a single comparison, the loss rates were telling. The loss rate of natural teeth ranged from 3.6-13.4%, while for dental implants it from 0-33%.
Preserve Your Natural Teeth
The authors wanted to show that dental implant survival rates weren’t really better than that of the survival of natural teeth. Having shown that, they recommended that people should try restoring their natural teeth first because restoring teeth with a dental crown now would allow patients to try replacing their teeth with a dental implant later.
Every Case Is Different
However, it’s important to remember that no matter what the research shows as the overall trend, every case is different. When we look at one of your teeth, we may have to decide that it’s best for you to have a dental implant rather than try to preserve your tooth. We may do this because your current tooth is too damaged to support a restoration.