A dental bridge is a permanent appliance that replaces a missing tooth or missing teeth. It’s made up of several pieces that are fused together to fit into the open space where your tooth or teeth used to be.
Dental bridges are an alternative to partial dentures. They serve both practical and aesthetic purposes, enabling you to eat and speak better as well as restoring your teeth’s appearance. The bridge may be made of several different types of material, including gold, alloys, or porcelain. When replacing a front tooth, porcelain is most often the material of choice because it can be matched to your natural tooth color.
Are You a Good Candidate?
Not everyone is a good candidate for a dental bridge.1 Factors that make you a good candidate include:
- Missing one or more permanent teeth
- Having overall good health (no severe health conditions, infections, or other health problems)
- Having healthy teeth and a strong bone structure to support the bridge
- Having good oral health
- Performing good oral hygiene to maintain the condition of the dental bridge
You and your dentist should discuss these factors before deciding whether a bridge is right for you.
Advantages of Dental Bridges
There are several positive effects of dental bridges, which account for their frequency of use in restorative dental work.
Replace missed tooth
Firstly, dental bridges are an effective solution for the replacement of missing teeth in the mouth, offering both functional and aesthetic correction.
In terms of function, the bridge allows a patient to chew and eat normally as there is no longer a gap in the jaw and the bridge can assist with the mastication of food. It can also help individuals to speak without inhibition, filling the gap in the teeth which may alter the placement of the tongue and the way sounds are made in the mouth.
Aesthetically, a dental bridge can compensate for the loss of the original teeth, particularly if the bridge is closely matched in color to the surrounding teeth. This can help to improve self-esteem and confidence in patients who are uncomfortable about their appearance with missing teeth.
Reduce the risk of consequent problems of the bite
Dental bridges can also offer benefits for the long-term structure of the mouth. Under normal circumstances, a gap in the jaw causes the teeth to gradually shift position and spread out, which can cause problems in the bite. In contrast, when the bridge is used to replace the missing teeth, the teeth on either side are held firmly in place to reduce the risk of movement and consequent problems of the bite. Additionally, the bridge can also help to reduce the risk of bone loss from the jaw and, therefore, maintains the facial structure.
Many patients also prefer dental bridges because of the way they feel in the mouth and their easy maintenance. A short time is usually needed for a patient to become accustomed to the feel of the dental bridge, after which it is hardly noticeable because it becomes a part of the mouth structure. Unlike dentures, bridges do not need to be removed regularly for cleaning and can be cleaned just like natural teeth by brushing.
If you’re missing one or more teeth, you’re not alone. average adults between 20 and 64 years old have three decayed or missing teeth. Fortunately, you have multiple options for replacing these missing teeth, including dental bridges. Here are four types of dental bridges that your dentist may recommend.
Traditional dental bridges
Traditional bridges are the most popular kind of bridge. These bridges consist of one or more pontics (fake teeth) and are held in place by dental crowns. These dental crowns are also called abutments, and they are cemented onto the teeth adjacent to your missing tooth.
Traditional bridges can be used when you have natural teeth on both sides of the gap created by your missing tooth. Bridges are even strong enough to replace molars. The downside of traditional bridges is that your dentist will need to prepare the adjacent teeth by removing their enamel to make room for the crowns that will be cemented on top. Since enamel doesn’t grow back, these teeth will always need to be protected with crowns, even if you later choose a different type of bridge.
Cantilever bridges are another option for replacing missing teeth. They are very similar to traditional bridges, but the pontic is supported by an abutment on only one side, rather than on both sides. So if there’s only one natural tooth next to the gap, a bridge can still be secured.
Like traditional bridges, your dentist will need to prepare the adjacent tooth to support the bridge by removing its enamel. Because these restorations are only supported on one side, they may act as a lever in some cases. This may lead to complications like fractured teeth or loosened crowns.
Maryland bridges are considered a conservative alternative to traditional bridges. These bridges consist of a pontic that is held in place by a metal or porcelain framework. This framework is bonded onto the backs of the two teeth adjacent to the missing tooth. Since this type of bridge isn’t held in place by crowns, the adjacent teeth don’t need to be filed.
While Maryland bridges are more conservative than traditional bridges, they do have their downsides. The strength of the bridge is limited by the strength of the resin that holds it in place, so it may not stay in place in areas of the mouth where the teeth are subjected to a lot of biting force, like the molars. The framework may also get in the way of your gums or your bite.
Implant supported bridges
Implant-supported bridges are another option for replacing missing teeth. They can be used when you have more than one tooth missing. Instead of being supported by crowns or frameworks, these bridges are supported by dental implants. Usually, one implant is placed for every missing tooth, and this series of implants holds the bridge in place. However, the bridge may consist of a pontic suspended between two implant-supported crowns if placing one implant for every lost tooth isn’t possible.
Because these bridges are secured by implants, they feel very secure and comfortable, just like the natural teeth they replace. And just like your natural teeth, a quality toothbrush is needed to keep your mouth healthy. One downside is that two surgeries are required to place the implants – the first to place the implants and the second to place the bridge – so expect to wait at least five months to get your finished bridge.
Your dentist can close the gaps in your smile with dental bridges. With so many types of dental bridges available, you can feel confident that your dentist has an appropriate solution for your missing teeth.
The initial step in the dental bridge procedure is to assess the need for restorative dental treatment to replace missing teeth, and whether a dental bridge is the best option. Other restorative dental treatments that may be more appropriate in some cases include dental crowns and dental implants.
The dentist will usually examine the area and take X-rays of the jaw to gain a full understanding of the situation and make the best decision. It is important to discuss the possible options with the patients, including the type and design of the bridge, so that they can understand the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative.
First Appointment: Teeth Preparation and Temporary Bridge Placement
Most bridges rest on the healthy teeth either side of the gap, which are known as abutment teeth. In order to prepare these teeth for the placement of a dental bridge, it is necessary to shape them for the bridge which is to be fitted. Local anesthetic is used to ensure patient comfort throughout this procedure.
The first step is to file the abutment teeth into an appropriate shape for the bridge to be placed. Impressions of the shaped teeth are then made and sent to a dental laboratory for the construction of the bridge. The prosthetics should be closely matched in color to the surrounding natural teeth for aesthetic purposes, so a sample color should be taken at this point.
In some cases, a dental implant may be needed to anchor the bridge, particularly if the teeth on either side of the gap are not strong enough to support the bridge by themselves.
Some patients may be fitted with a temporary bridge, which is typically made out of filling material and functions to protect the shaped teeth from damage while the permanent bridge is being constructed. This can later be removed when the permanent bridge is ready to be placed in the mouth.
Second Appointment: Permanent Bridge Placement
The second appointment in the dental bridge procedure may take place as soon as the unique appliance has been made and is ready to be placed. Once again, local anesthetic is usually applied at the beginning of this appointment to increase patient comfort.
Before the permanent dental bridge can be placed, the temporary one should be removed and, if necessary, the underlying teeth cleaned. Dental cement can then be used to fix the dental bridge in place on the abutment teeth.
The results can then be seen and the patient can experience what it feels like on biting the teeth together gently. While it should be expected that the bridge feels unfamiliar at first, this usually wears off quickly. There may be need for a few final adjustments to the bridge in some cases.
Aftercare and follow up is very important in the dental bridge procedure to ensure that the patient knows what to expect and understands how to care for their new dental bridge. For this reason, the dentist should take some time to explain the particulars of the dental bridge, including the recommended oral care and when to seek dental advice. With recommended maintenance, a dental bridge often lasts longer than ten years.
Taking Care of a Dental Bridge
Dental bridges are considered “permanent” because they’re not removable like dentures, but they don’t last forever. The average bridge lasts between five and seven years, but with proper care, some bridges can last more than a decade. Advances in materials and methods are likely to make them even more durable in the future.
Even so, how you take care of your bridge can have a big impact on how long it lasts.
Making It Last
Good oral hygiene is important to keep remaining teeth strong and healthy, as well as to maintain a long, healthy lifespan for your bridge. Just as with your natural teeth, it’s essential to brush and floss your bridge at least twice each day.
Your dentist or dental hygienist will demonstrate how to properly floss and clean around the new bridge. In addition, it’s important to see the dentist regularly for dental cleanings and exams.
Some foods should be avoided long-term because they can cause problems for your bridge or abutment teeth. These include:
- Chewy/sticky candy(which could pull the crowns off of the abutment teeth)
- Hard candy or snacks
- Sugary foods (to prevent tooth decay under the crowns)
You’ll need to be careful what you eat for a while after your bridge is placed. Be sure you know what you can and can’t eat in the days following your procedure(s) and follow your dentist’s advice.
Disadvantages of Dental Bridges
However, there are also several drawbacks linked to the use of dental bridges in restorative dentistry.
Firstly, the healthy abutment teeth on either side of the gap that hold the pontic in place may become damaged in some cases, after the bridge is fitted. For example, there is a risk of decay of if the bridge and crowns are not well fitted and allow plaque and bacteria to enter underneath them. Additionally, the structure of the teeth may change following the placement of the crowns and bridge.
For some patients, the supporting abutment teeth have insufficient strength to hold the bridge and consequently collapse. This presents additional problems that will need to be addressed and may even worsen the original situation. In severe cases, the abutment teeth may eventually need to be replaced by dental implants.
Weighing up the Advantages and Disadvantages
The best type of restorative dental treatment will depend on the specific case, and the advantages and disadvantages should be considered in the decision-making process. It is mandatory for the dentist to present the different options to patients, alongside the risks and benefits of each possibility, so that together they can make the optimal decision.
What does a dental bridge cost?
There are many variables that can affect the price including:
- number of teeth needed to fill the gap
- materials used, such as composite resin, zirconia, or metal alloy covered in resin
- complexity/difficulty of the placement
- additional treatments for other dental issues, such as gum disease
- geographic location