Unlike bridges that anchor to existing teeth and place false teeth on top of the gum line, dental implants actually fuse to the bone in the jaw. A dental implant consists of three parts -- a titanium implant that anchors to the jawbone, a post (also known as an abutment) that protrudes from the anchor through the gum line, and a crown that covers the post with a reconstructed tooth.
Dental implants provide a much more permanent solution to missing teeth. They also have the added benefit of preserving neighboring teeth. This is not only because existing teeth don't have to be altered to accept the crowns attached to a bridge, but because -- according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons -- up to 30 percent of the teeth located next to a fixed bridge fail within five to seven years.
Dental implants are nearly twice as expensive as bridges however, and can run between $1,250 and $3,000 per tooth, so the potential benefits of implants must always be weighed against their cost [source: aboutcosmeticdentistry.org].