For people missing one or more teeth, dental bridges can be a great way to restore their smile. Unlike dentures, a dental bridge remains fixed in your mouth and looks and feels much like your natural teeth.
A dental bridge consists of two main components – the artificial tooth/teeth called pontic, which replaces the missing tooth/teeth, and the dental crowns attached to the pontic and cemented onto the adjacent natural teeth. The natural teeth supporting the dental bridge are known as abutments.
For the longest time, dental bridges have been the most preferred option for permanent replacement of missing teeth. With the advent of dental implants, the popularity of dental bridges gradually went down. However, not everyone is a good candidate to receive dental implants. Such individuals can benefit greatly from dental bridges, which is a type of fixed dental restoration like dental implants.
Types of Dental Bridges
Depending on their type of construction, dental bridges are of four main types.
Traditional Dental Bridges – Traditional bridges are the most commonly used type of dental bridge and require the presence of natural teeth on both sides of the missing tooth/teeth. These types of bridges consist of an artificial tooth/teeth (pontic) suspended between dental crowns on either side. The dental crowns are cemented onto the abutment teeth on both sides, which is the primary support system of a traditional dental bridge.
Cantilever Dental Bridges – Cantilever bridges are similar to traditional bridges with one exception. Instead of abutment teeth on both sides, the presence of a single natural abutment adjacent to the missing tooth is sufficient for a cantilever bridge. Such bridges are not very stable and hence, not commonly used.
Maryland Bridges – Just like traditional bridges, Maryland bridges are supported by abutment teeth on both sides. However, instead of full coverage dental crowns, Maryland bridges use a metal or porcelain framework attached to the pontic. They are shaped like wings and can be bonded onto the backside of the abutment teeth. It has the advantage of saving the natural tooth structure of the healthy abutment teeth, which needs to be shaved down in the case of traditional bridges. Although like cantilever bridges, the success rate of Maryland bridges is also questionable.
Implant-Supported Dental Bridges – These types of bridges are increasingly becoming the norm compared to traditional bridges. Instead of dental crowns, the pontic is supported by a dental implant that is drilled directly into the jawbone. A single implant can be used for every missing tooth, or in case of multiple missing teeth, a pontic can be suspended between implant-supported dental crowns on either side.
Benefits of Dental Bridges
Restoration of your natural smile and overall esthetic appearance.
Prevents natural teeth from drifting into the space left behind by the missing teeth, which can affect the bite of the patient.
Allows you to eat and talk normally.
Remains fixed in the mouth, so there is no worry about it slipping out while eating or laughing.
Maintains the natural shape of your mouth and face.
Cost of Dental Bridges
Several factors affect the cost of a dental bridge. This includes but may not be limited to –
The number of missing teeth that need to be replaced.
The type of dental bridge chosen and material used in the fabrication of the bridge (metal, porcelain-fused-to-metal, or ceramics like zirconia)
Additional treatments needed (tooth extraction, gum disease treatment, etc.)
The complexity of the case and location of bridge placement
Your dentist’s charges and his level of expertise
Dental bridges may be a costly option if they are needed to replace multiple missing teeth. Most dental insurance plans provide coverage for dental bridges, which can bring down the amount you pay out of pocket.
Procedure for Dental Bridges
The first step for any dental procedure involves a thorough consultation with your dentist. Once you have been deemed fit for getting dental bridges, your dentist will devise a customized plan for you. Depending on the number of missing teeth, the patient’s esthetic expectations, and their budget, the dentist can decide on the kind of dental bridge and the type of material to choose.
Porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) dental bridges have a metal framework with a layer of porcelain over it. The metal component contributes structural strength to the restoration while the porcelain layer gives it good esthetic value. However, a thin layer of metal is usually visible at the base of PFM dental crowns, which renders it unsuitable for use on the front teeth. All-ceramic crowns are esthetically superior and are best suited for the front teeth. They do not have the structural integrity of PFM or metal dental bridges and should ideally not be used on the back teeth.
Once the type of dental bridge has been chosen, your dentist will trim down the abutment teeth and take an impression of your mouth. This is then sent to the dental lab for fabrication of your bridge, which can take a few weeks. Your dentist will place temporary crowns on your prepared teeth to protect them from sensitivity and damage until your dental bridge arrives.
The permanent dental bridge is cemented onto your prepared teeth and checked for a good fit. Any minor alterations that may be needed are done at this point. Once your dental bridge is set in place, you can use it for eating and talking almost like your natural teeth.
Caring for Dental Bridges
Dental bridges usually have a lifespan of about 5-15 years and the replacement costs can accumulate over time. The best way to prolong the life of your dental bridge is by taking care of your oral hygiene and avoiding foods and habits that can damage the bridge. Regular brushing and flossing is the best way to take care of your natural teeth, and the same can be applied to your dental bridges as well. Flossing around your dental bridge can be tricky, and your dentist and dental hygienist will be able to demonstrate the best possible way to do so. Regular visits to the dentist also help in the detection of any dental issues at an early stage, which can prevent the problem from becoming worse.
For more details and information about dental bridges, visit us at LeSueur Family Dental and get to know whether you are a good candidate for the dental bridge treatment.