Dental bridges are a type of fixed dental prosthetic that are used to replace one or more missing teeth. As the name suggests, a dental bridge bridges the gap created by missing teeth.
Types of Dental Bridges
A dental bridge is typically created by anchoring artificial teeth (pontics) between dental crowns placed on the natural teeth on either side of the gap. Depending on your situation, your dentist may recommend different types of dental bridges.
A traditional bridge comprises an artificial tooth (pontic) held in place by dental crowns fixed on the natural teeth (abutment teeth) on either side of the gap.
Sections of the enamel on the abutment teeth may be removed during the crowning procedure to ensure a proper fit and natural look. The bridge is custom-made in a lab using impressions of your natural teeth, ensuring that it fits your mouth comfortably while maintaining an aesthetic and seamless appearance.
Cantilever bridges share many similarities to traditional bridges, but they are unique in that they are supported by only one abutment tooth. Your dentist may recommend a cantilever bridge if you are missing a tooth in the front of your mouth.
Like traditional bridges, the abutment tooth is prepared for crowning by removing sections of its enamel. This crown will act as a sturdy anchor for the artificial tooth, which will fill the gap left by the missing tooth.
Maryland bridges are an alternative to traditional bridges that do not require dental crowns on the abutment tooth. Instead, a metal or porcelain framework with small wings is bonded to the back of the abutment teeth creating an anchor for the artificial teeth.
Your dentist may recommend a Maryland bridge if you have weak abutment teeth that can't support crowns or prefer to avoid removing portions of the enamel to support a dental bridge.
Implant-supported bridges offer a solution for replacing multiple missing teeth without relying on natural teeth for support. Implant-supported bridges are attached to dental implants, which are small, titanium posts surgically fused to the jawbone to replace missing tooth roots.
Placing an implant-supported bridge takes longer since dental implants require several months to heal and fuse with the jawbone. Abutments are attached to the implants after healing, and the bridge is then affixed to these abutments using dental cement or small screws.
While traditional and cantilever bridges are more durable than Maryland bridges, they require the removal of healthy tooth structure from the abutment teeth. On the other hand, Maryland bridges are a great option if you have weakened or damaged teeth, but they may not be suitable for bridging large gaps between teeth.
Implant-supported bridges offer the most stable and durable option, but they are typically more expensive than traditional bridges and require a longer treatment timeline. Implant-supported bridges may be your only option if you don't have a natural tooth in the back of your mouth that can support a traditional bridge.
Dental Bridge Procedure
The dental bridge procedure consists of multiple steps, which typically include the following:
Assessing the overall health of your mouth is the most important step in the dental bridge procedure. Your dentist will utilize specialized dental tools such as a dental mirror and probe to carefully examine your teeth for signs of decay, trauma, and gum disease.
After evaluating the examination results, your dentist will provide personalized advice on the most suitable type of dental bridge for your specific situation.
In addition, they will address any concerns regarding the procedure, including estimated costs, insurance coverage, payment options, and the risks and benefits of dental bridges.
Preparing the Abutment Teeth
While this step is not necessary for Maryland and implant-supported bridges, it is important to note that traditional and cantilever bridges require the preparation of the abutment teeth. Your dentist will use a local anesthetic before the tooth preparation to numb the gums surrounding the abutment teeth.
During the procedure, your dentist will use a dental drill to carefully remove small portions of enamel from the abutment teeth on either side of the tooth gap. This creates enough space for the dental crowns to fit securely onto the teeth.
For implant-supported bridges, dental implants will be surgically placed into your jawbone. The implants will require several months to heal and fuse with the surrounding bone tissue.
Taking Impressions of the Teeth
The next step involves taking impressions of your teeth. This crucial step ensures that your dental bridges will fit comfortably in your mouth while maintaining a natural look and feel. Your dentist may use one of two methods to take impressions: the traditional putty-like material approach or the more modern digital scanner approach.
The traditional method involves filling a dental impression tray with a putty-like material, such as silicone or alginate. Your dentist will place the tray into your mouth, allowing the material to be set for a while. After removing the tray, they will inspect the impression for accuracy and necessary details.
Alternatively, the digital scanner method involves using a hand-held scanner to capture images of your mouth and teeth. These images are used to create an accurate 3D model of your mouth and teeth, eliminating the need for putty-like material.
Fitting the Dental Bridge
Once your impressions have been taken, they will be sent to a specialized dental laboratory where your custom dental bridge will be fabricated. In the meantime, your dentist will create a temporary bridge to protect the abutment teeth and exposed gums. The temporary bridge will be held in place using temporary cement and can be easily removed once the permanent bridge is ready for placement.
When your permanent dental bridge is ready, your dentist will schedule an appointment to examine the placement site and abutment teeth for any issues before removing the temporary crown. Next, the permanent dental bridge will be carefully placed to ensure a snug fit in the missing teeth gap.
Your dentist will check your bite to ensure that the bridge aligns with your natural teeth and that your bite is comfortable. Once satisfied, the dental bridge will be cemented in place using dental cement, which may be hardened with a curing light to create a strong and durable bond between the bridge and your teeth.
Your dentist may schedule follow-up appointments to assess the condition and proper functioning of your dental bridge and its natural appearance. During these appointments, they may take dental x-rays to evaluate the abutment teeth and surrounding bone structure. Additionally, your dentist may adjust your bite to ensure that your teeth come together evenly.
Your dentist will provide oral hygiene instructions for caring for your dental bridge at home, such as brushing and flossing techniques to keep the bridge clean.
Benefits of Dental Bridges
There are several benefits to getting dental bridges. They include:
- Boost your confidence: Missing teeth can be a source of embarrassment and anxiety in social situations. Dental bridges can enhance your smile by improving the appearance of your teeth. As a result, this minor dental procedure can significantly boost your confidence as you interact with others.
- Restore functionality of the teeth: Missing teeth can significantly impact your ability to chew, resulting in digestion problems and malnutrition. By replacing missing teeth with dental bridges, you can enjoy a variety of foods that may have been challenging to eat before, which can also lead to improved overall nutrition.
- Improve your speech: Missing teeth can create gaps that result in whistling sounds and pronunciation difficulties when speaking. However, dental bridges can effectively fill these gaps, leading to a significant improvement in speech.
- Maintaining facial structure: Missing teeth can lead to jawbone deterioration, bone loss, and bite misalignment as adjacent teeth shift to occupy the gap. This can ultimately cause a sunken facial appearance. By filling the gap left by missing teeth, dental bridges can maintain a symmetrical facial structure and jawbone density.
Cost of Dental Bridges
The cost of a dental bridge can vary significantly and is influenced by several factors, including the type of bridge chosen, the materials used, the extent of the dental work required, and the location of the dental practice. Additionally, the cost of a dental bridge may also be impacted by your insurance coverage.
Here are some approximate fees for each type of dental bridge:
- Traditional dental bridge: A traditional dental bridge typically costs between $500 to $1,500 per tooth, which can vary depending on several factors, such as the dental practice, the complexity of the procedure, the materials used and your dental insurance benefits
- Cantilever dental bridge: The cost of a cantilever dental bridge typically ranges from $500 to $1,500 per tooth and may vary depending on factors such as the dental practice's location, the complexity of the procedure, the materials used, and your dental insurance benefits
- Maryland dental bridge: The cost of a Maryland dental bridge typically ranges between $500 to $1,500 per tooth, depending on factors such as the complexity of the procedure, the materials used, the specific dental practice chosen, and your dental insurance benefits
- Implant-supported bridge: Implant-supported bridges can cost $3,000 to $6,000 per tooth, depending on the complexity of the procedure, the materials used, the dental practice, and your dental insurance benefits.
Comparison Between Dental Bridges and Other Tooth Replacement Options
While dental bridges are a popular and effective tooth replacement option, it is important to note that there may be alternative solutions better suited to your situation, budget, or insurance coverage. It would be best to discuss all available options with your dentist to determine the best course of action. Here is a comparison between dental bridges and other common tooth replacement options.
- Dental Implants: Dental implants are a tooth replacement option that involves inserting a small titanium post in the jawbone that supports a dental crown. Dental implants can last longer than dental bridges and require less maintenance. However, they are often more expensive than partial dentures and require a longer treatment timeline
- Partial dentures: Partial dentures are designed to replace a few missing teeth. While they are cheaper than dental bridges, they are less stable and may not be as natural-looking
- Removable bridges (Nesbit Appliance): Removable bridges are similar to partial dentures. However, they are more stable since they are reinforced with a metal framework and attached to the remaining teeth using metal clasps. While they are cheaper than dental bridges, they require more maintenance, and they aren't as long-lasting
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Do Dental Bridges Last?
Dental bridges can last anywhere from 5 years to a lifetime, depending on factors like the material the bridge is made of, the type of dental bridge, and your maintenance routine. For instance, cantilever bridges have a slightly shorter lifespan than implant-supported bridges since they place more stress on the abutment teeth.
Do Dental Bridges Hurt?
No, dental bridges do not hurt. Your dentist will administer local anesthesia to numb the placement area for the bridge to reduce discomfort during the procedure. Furthermore, they will recommend over-the-counter painkillers to manage any discomfort or sensitivity you may feel for a few days after the procedure.
Can Dental Bridges be Removed?
While dental bridges are designed to be a permanent tooth-replacement option, they can be removed by your dentist for various reasons. For example, a dental bridge may be removed if it becomes damaged or the underlying tissue becomes infected. Once a dental bridge is removed, it often cannot be re-inserted and a new bridge must be fabricated.
How do I Care for My Dental Bridge?
Practice good oral hygiene, like brushing and flossing twice daily, to maintain your dental bridge's integrity. Also, avoid chewing hard foods that may damage or dislodge the bridge. Finally, attend follow-up appointments with your dentist. They will assess the dental bridge and recommend additional care instructions.
Dental bridges are an effective and long-lasting solution for replacing missing teeth. They can restore your chewing ability, speech, and smile and maintain your facial structure by preventing bone loss. While the treatment timeline may be lengthy depending on your situation, dental bridges' long-term benefits and longevity are well worth the effort.
If you are missing one or more teeth, give us a call to find out if dental bridges are the best replacement solution.