Just as a roadway bridge spans a gap in the landscape, a dental bridge connects a gap in your smile. There are many reasons you might consider a dental bridge, so it’s important to know what your options are.
What is a dental bridge?
More than 120 million adults between the ages of 20 and 64 are missing at least one tooth. A bridge is a group of prosthetic teeth that replaces those missing natural teeth. There are four types of dental bridges:
1. Traditional dental bridge
This is the most common type of bridge.
One or more replacement teeth (called pontics) are affixed with dental crowns to the teeth on either side of the missing tooth or teeth. These dental bridges are best if the remaining teeth are strong and healthy, but there is a down side.
The enamel on the healthy teeth will need to be removed to attach the crown. Therefore, if this type of dental bridge has to be removed, your healthy teeth will need repair.
2. Cantilever dental bridge
Cantilever dental bridges are similar to a traditional dental bridge but are only affixed to one healthy tooth.
This can be a plus if there is only one healthy tooth available, but that tooth will also need to have enamel removed. In addition, the cantilever can act as a pry bar of sorts, loosening other dental work in the worst circumstances.
3. Maryland dental bridge
For a more natural bridge, dental bridges that don’t damage healthy teeth are a desirable option.
Maryland bridges bond to the backs of the teeth beside the gap, instead of attaching with a cemented crown. While this allows you to keep your enamel, this type of bridge is not as sturdy. These types of bridge are best for areas of the mouth with less biting force.
4. Implant-supported dental bridge
An implant-supported bridge is perhaps the sturdiest of all dental bridges and is ideal for people missing two or more teeth.
For every missing tooth, a dental implant is placed in the jawbone, and the pontics are affixed to that. In some cases, one dental implant on either end of the bridge may be enough to secure this type of dental bridge.
Why would I need a dental bridge?
Bridges are used to replace a missing tooth or teeth in cases when the remaining tooth structure cannot support a crown (the more conservative approach).
Some conditions that might lead to a bridge include:
- Extreme tooth decay that damages the whole tooth
- Loss of multiple teeth where a dental bridge would be the most conservative option
- Trauma that damages the tooth to the point where it cannot be saved (e.g., accident or injury)
Your dentist will always do their best to preserve natural teeth as much as possible, but in some cases, dental bridges are the easiest, safest, and most cost-effective way to restore your mouth’s function.
What should I expect during a dental bridge procedure?
The procedure varies depending on the type of bridge you decide on.
In all cases, your dentist conducts a thorough examination of your mouth before discussing your options. They’ll also make a mold of your healthy teeth. For traditional or cantilever dental bridges, the healthy teeth that border the missing teeth may be prepared for dental crowns.
In many cases, your dentist will offer you a temporary bridge while the permanent bridge is custom-made. This temporary dental bridge may not be as comfortable or secure as your permanent bridge, but do keep in mind that it is just a placeholder.
For implant-supported dental bridges, there will be an additional visit when the implants are placed. There is a period of healing before the permanent bridge can be attached.
The entire process can take anywhere from two weeks to several months, depending on the work you need done.
How long do dental bridges last?
With proper care, including regular brushing and flossing and twice-yearly dental checkups, dental bridges can last between five and twenty years. Their longevity depends on the type of bridge and the materials used, but the average span of use is about