OverviewIs a hole in your smile a cause for concern? Consider getting a dental bridge that fills gaps between your teeth, improving your smile and overall oral health.
A dental bridge is a set of false teeth (known as a pontic) placed over abutment teeth on either side of the gap. Abutment teeth are your natural teeth, which are filed down and covered with crowns attached to the pontic to give the dental bridge a seamless look. A dental bridge is most often a “fixed” restoration, meaning that it cannot be removed as easily as other dentures.
There are four distinct types of fixed dental bridges: (1)
- Traditional fixed dental bridge This is the most common type of bridge. It consists of a false tooth (or teeth) that are attached to dental caps or crowns placed over the abutment teeth. These are most often used with you have natural teeth on both sides of the gap. These bridges can be made of ceramics, porcelain-fused-to-metal, or metal.
- Cantilever dental bridge This bridge is similar to the traditional fixed bridge, but it uses only one crown to attach to one abutment tooth. It is mainly used for people who have teeth on only one side of the gap.
- Resin-bonded dental bridge Also known as the Maryland dental bridge, it is the most common type used to replace missing front teeth. Instead of using crowns attached to abutment teeth, the Maryland dental bridge uses a metal or porcelain framework that is attached to the backs of the abutment teeth.
- Implant-supported bridge This bridge is similar to the traditional fixed bridge, but it is held in place by implants surgically placed into the jawbone. These implants act like tooth roots to stably hold the bridge into place.
Implant-supported bridges are the strongest system. They typically require two separate procedures to be placed:
- The first surgery involves drilling a titanium implant into the jawbone.
- The second surgery places the bridge onto the implant.
A missing tooth or teeth is more than just a cosmetic concern. It can result in bite irregularities (malocclusion), speech issues, TMJ disorder (a jaw joint condition), and increased risks for gum disease and dental decay. Dental bridges can help address these issues. There are a variety of factors used to determine your candidacy for a dental bridge and the type of materials to best suit your needs. One important factor is having a healthy mouth that can support a bridge. Additional factors include, but are not limited to:
- The location of the missing tooth/teeth being replaced
- Your oral habits (such as grinding teeth)
- Your dental insurance plan
During the initial consultation, your dentist will take x-rays and an impression of the area where the tooth/teeth are missing. Your dentist will then discuss your options to determine the best course of treatment and help you approximate costs.
Advantages of dental bridges include:
- Improving your bite
- Preventing remaining teeth from shifting in your mouth
- Restoring your ability to chew and speak
- Natural aesthetics that look, feel, and function like natural teeth
- Do not require removal for cleaning
- Cost less than dental implants and other options
Disadvantages of dental bridges include:
- Requires modification of the teeth next to the bridge
- May need extra effort to clean under the bridge piece
- Bridge can fail if abutment teeth decay or if dental cement wears off
Placing a dental bridge typically takes two visits to the dentist’s office. On the first visit, your dentist will prepare the abutment teeth by filing them down, so the crown(s) can be placed over them to secure the dental bridge. They will then take an impression of your teeth and the gap to send to a laboratory where the bridge is fabricated. Your dentist will give you a temporary bridge to protect your exposed teeth while waiting for your permanent one. This process typically takes two to three weeks. At the next visit, your dentist will fit the dental bridge on and secure it with a special cement. This means the bridge is fixed in your mouth and cannot be removed. It is important to let your dentist know if your bite alignment does not feel right or if you have any pain or discomfort. It will take a few days to get used to the feel of the bridge in your mouth.
How long will they last?
On average, dental bridges last at least five to seven years; if you are attentive to the bridge and your oral hygiene, they may last more than ten years. Be sure to brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily as well. You may need to use a special kind of floss called a threader that lets you slide the floss between your bridge and gum. (1) This level of care helps prevent gum disease, which can affect your bridge and overall oral health.
There are a number of factors affecting the cost of dental bridges, including:
- The materials used to fabricate the bridges
- Dental insurance coverage
- Additional dental work required (such as treatment of decay or gum disease)
- Tooth preparation
Overall, the typical costs are: (3)
- Traditional fixed dental bridge/Cantilever bridge: $700-$1,500 per unit, or $2,100-$4,500 or more total for a three-unit bridge; a four-unit bridge (two pontics and two crowns) can cost between $2,000-$12,000 or more.
- Resin-bonded (Maryland) dental bridge: $250-$550 for each wing and $600-$1,200 per false tooth.
- Implant-supported bridge: Two to six dental implants with a partial or full-mouth bridge can cost between $3,500-$30,000, depending on the number of implants needed, the size of the bridge and materials used, and any other needed procedures (bone grafts, tooth extractions, etc.)
One alternative to dental bridges is partial dentures. These are usually cheaper than dental bridges or implants and are easier to repair as well. Partial dentures are a removable piece of dental equipment that have artificial teeth on a pink plastic piece that matches the color of your gums. They are an effective alternative, but they may break easier, and are less stable than dental bridges or implants.(2)
Another alternative is dental implant surgery. These are threaded metal posts that are drilled into the jawbone to provide a stable anchor for the attachment of dental crowns. A fixed bridge can be attached to dental implants, or individual crowns can be attached as well. Implants require oral surgery and a longer recovery time. Additionally, they are one of the more expensive options, so they may not be right for everyone. (2)