Medically Reviewed by Greg Grillo, D.D.S.
Is the hole in your smile a cause for concern? Consider a dental bridge.
A dental bridge is a type of tooth restoration used to replace missing teeth. In a similar restorative category to dental implants and dentures, dental bridges offer functional and esthetic solutions to the issues caused by tooth loss. A missing tooth or teeth is more than a cosmetic concern. It can result in bite irregularities (malocclusion), speech issues, TMJ disorder (jaw joint condition), and increased risks for gum disease and dental decay.
Dental Bridge Types
A dental bridge is most often a “fixed” restoration, meaning that it cannot be removed in the same manner as certain dentures. There are three distinct types of fixed dental bridges:
- Conventional fixed dental bridge
- Cantilever dental bridge
- Resin-bonded dental bridge
Conventional and cantilever dental bridges are similar in that both require preparation of the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth or teeth. In order to accommodate a conventional/cantilever bridge, this preparation may include permanent reshaping of the teeth intended to best support the restoration. A dental crown attached to an artificial tooth (also called a pontic) is then placed over the shaped tooth/teeth, with the resulting restoration filling the void.
Resin-bonded bridges differ from conventional and cantilever options in that they require minimal preparation of surrounding teeth. More often than not, a resin-bonded bridge is used to replace missing front teeth. Regardless of the bridge type, periodontal health may determine whether or not a bridge is an option, because the gums must be healthy enough to support the restoration.
The materials used to fabricate most of today’s dental bridges include porcelain, metal, gold, zirconia and alumina.
Are You a Candidate for a Dental Bridge?
There are a variety of factors used to determine your candidacy for a dental bridge and the type of materials best suited to your needs. Oral health is one of the more important factors in that you must have a healthy mouth in order to support a bridge. Additional factors include the location of the missing tooth/teeth being replaced, your oral habits (such as if you grind your teeth), your dental insurance policy and more.
During an initial consultation, your dentist will take X-rays and impressions of the missing tooth region. Your dentist then will work with you to determine the best course of treatment, and help you determine approximate costs. Following treatment completion, the X-ray and impression process may again be performed to provide a dental bridge before and after reference.
Bridges for Teeth: What’s the Procedure?
Before surrounding teeth can be “prepped” for your bridge procedure, a local anesthetic must first be given. Keep in mind that if you’re surrounding teeth are badly decayed or otherwise lacking in support, your dentist may have to provide treatment before the bridge procedure can be performed.
Once your teeth are prepped for your bridge, you dentist will take an impression using a putty-like material. Getting an accurate impression is essential in order to fabricate a well-fitting restoration. Using this model, a dental lab technician will then fabricate your bridge, ensuring its fit and esthetic appeal. The fabrication process may take 2-3 weeks during which your dentist will fit you with a temporary dental bridge. This helps to keep your teeth from shifting while protecting your smile. The procedure is completed at a second visit in which your dentist removes the temporary and places your final bridge restoration.
The Cost of a Dental Bridge: A Price Evaluation
You’re a candidate for dental bridges and you’re seriously considering treatment. So what does a dental bridge cost?
Dental bridge prices vary based on numerous factors, perhaps the most important of which revolves around where you go for treatment. Depending on the dentist you select for treatment and the location of the dentist’s practice, bridge prices may vary significantly.
For example, a dental bridge at a luxury dental treatment spa in Beverly Hills will most likely cost more than a dental bridge in Mexico – where many people go for discounted health care. However, it is important to note that while price isn’t everything, opting for one practice versus another for the sole reason of pricing may not be the best long term solution. The costs may be cheaper at one practice because of the materials used or the level of skill of the technician fabricating the restoration. A large portion of the bridge cost includes the hours of detail work that occur in the lab. Higher-priced bridges often come from the best U.S-based labs.
Sacrificing quality in the short term in order to save money may end up costing you more in the long term. It is for this reason that it is incredibly important to fully evaluate all available treatment options before committing to one.
Factors Affecting the Cost of a Tooth Bridge
In addition to the dentist providing treatment and the location in which it is performed, there are a variety of other factors that affect dental bridge prices:
- The materials used to fabricate the bridge
- Dental insurance coverage
- The dental lab and lab technician used
- Additional dental work required (such as treatment of decay or gum disease)
- Tooth preparation
All things considered, the approximate cost for a dental bridge is between $2,000 to $4,000 to replace one or two missing teeth. Although this may strike some as rather expensive, quality dental bridges may last between 10 and 20 years if cared for appropriately. If you do not have dental insurance, or have a policy that provides limited or no coverage for dental bridges, you may inquire about financing through your dentist, or look into third-party financing options.