What is a dental bridge?

A dental bridge is used to replace one or more missing teeth by filling in a gap with a false tooth called a pontic. The bridge is typically created by placing crowns on the natural teeth on both sides of the missing space. These are called the abutment teeth. The pontic is bonded to the abutments and cemented in place. A dental bridge can help improve your speaking and chewing. It also restores the smile’s appearance and helps maintain the face’s natural shape. Dental bridges can also be supported by implants placed in the jawbone.

Who needs a dental bridge?

Your dentist might recommend a dental bridge if you have a missing tooth or teeth either due to an injury, gum disease, tooth decay or a physical condition. A dental bridge can help restore your ability to eat and speak properly, prevent your other teeth from moving, realign your bite, and maintain your appearance.

What are the different types of dental bridges?

There are several different types of dental bridges available:

  • Traditional bridge

The most popular type of dental bridge consists of an artificial tooth or teeth held in place by dental crowns that have been placed on both sides of the space left by the missing tooth or teeth. Traditional bridges can be made of gold, alloys or porcelain. They are cemented in place and can only be removed by a dental professional.

  • Cantilever bridge

This type of bridge is similar to a traditional bridge in that the pontic is held in place by a dental crown. However, only one natural tooth next to the gap is required for the crown to be cemented. The cantilever bridge can be used in only certain situations.

  • Implant bridge

This type of bridge attaches artificial teeth to an implant that is surgically placed in the jawbone and an artificial abutment tooth that is attached to the implant. The bridge is then cemented to the implant supported abutments. This option requires two surgeries — one to put the implant in the jawbone and one to attach the abutment tooth to the implant. Since these procedures require some healing time and more steps, it takes a longer time to complete and is usually more expensive than a conventional bridge. However, this may be your best and strongest option, particularly if you have lost multiple teeth or your natural teeth are not sufficiently strong.

  • Maryland dental bridge

The Maryland dental bridge requires two natural teeth on both sides of the gap. However, instead of using crowns, a framework of porcelain or metal is bonded onto the backs of the natural teeth. As with a cantilever bridge, this is only effective in a limited number of situations.

 

What are the benefits of dental bridges?

Dental bridges help to:

  • Restore your smile.
  • Improve chewing ability.
  • Prevent other teeth from shifting.
  • Enable you to speak properly.
  • Maintain the shape of your face.

 

What does a dental bridge procedure look like?

A tooth-supported dental bridge typically requires two appointments, as follows:

  • Appointment #1: Your dentist prepares the abutment teeth by reshaping them and makes room for the crown by removing part of the dentin and enamel. Next, impressions of your teeth are made to create the bridge. You’ll be given a temporary bridge to protect the exposed areas while your final bridge is being made.
  • Appointment #2: You’ll receive the bridge during your second appointment. Your dentist will ensure that the bridge fits properly by checking comfort, size and appearance to make sure correct and that speech is not affected. There may be follow-up appointments where more adjustments are made before the bridge is cemented in place.
 
Other frequently asked questions about dental bridges

Dental bridges typically last for five to seven years with proper care. However, it’s not unusual for a dental bridge to last over 10 years with regular professional cleanings and good oral hygiene. Depending on many factors including your oral care routine, diet, bite, oral habits and lifestyle, bridges may last a lifetime.

The cost of a dental bridge varies depending on the type you need and your geographical location. If you have dental insurance, a portion of the fee is typically covered depending on the plan you have.

Dental bridges usually help with speaking and eating. When you have a gap in your teeth, it can be increasingly challenging to do these everyday activities, so a dental bridge can help.

Dental bridge care requires brushing and flossing your teeth daily, attending regularly scheduled dentist appointments, eating a well-balanced diet, and getting regular professional cleanings. Special brushes and floss threaders are available to keep the pontic areas of the bridge clean.

Sources

“Bridges.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/bridges Accessed 2013.

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