A dental bridge is a prosthetic restoration used to replace missing teeth with multiple teeth connected to each other. This blog post will cover the basics of dental bridges, what they are used for, as well as the different types and materials available.
What is a Dental Bridge?
A dental bridge, commonly known as a “bridge,” is a procedure that offers a fixed restorative option to replace missing teeth. The bridge is composed of two distinct components, which are called either abutments or pontic, made from porcelain, ceramic, metal alloys, and composite resin.
- Abutment: The abutment is the tooth in the mouth that the bridge attaches to, and there should be at least two abutments per prosthesis.
- Pontic: A pontic is a missing tooth that the dentist intends to replace with this procedure. It will not have any roots and will be completely fabricated in a dental lab.
A dental bridge can come in different lengths that match the patient’s needs, but the minimum length is typically at least three units (for example, two abutments and one pontic). An exception includes the Maryland bridges, which are two-unit prosthetics that are cantilevered.
The idea behind a dental bridge is similar to a transportation bridge, in which both need anchorage or abutments at the end to prevent the structure from instability. Without anchorage, the bridge would wobble while chewing.
Pros and Cons of Choosing a Dental Bridge
- Restores the appearance and function of the teeth, allowing patients to chew and speak properly
- Help prevent further dental problems, such as shifting of the remaining teeth, which can lead to bite problems and tooth decay
- Less costly than full implants
- Long-lasting and durable, with an expected lifespan of up to 15 years
- They are less durable than implants; therefore, they are more prone to dental issues in the future
- It may loosen or break over time since no material is as strong as your natural teeth
- It can lead to gum disease if not cleaned properly (especially since flossing is not possible)
- Cannot be used if missing the last tooth in your mouth, such as the second molar (The force these teeth experience are too strong and can break a pontic)
Types of Dental Bridges
There are four types of bridges that differ in how they anchor the pontic. These include:
Traditional fixed bridge
A traditional fixed bridge has two abutment teeth at each end to anchor the bridge, with a pontic in-between, and it is known to be the most stable of the four types. These bridges can be made of metal, ceramic, or porcelain fused to metal.
This type of bridge only utilizes one abutment or support with one or both ends having a cantilever pontic. These bridges are not as stable as traditional bridges and can only be used for areas with lower masticatory forces. This means these are typically not used on the back teeth, which experience lots of pressure while chewing.
Maryland dental bridge
This type of bridge is used specifically for a missing front tooth. The unique aspect of this procedure is that it does not require a full crown preparation for the abutment teeth. This means your adjacent teeth will not need to be fully shaved down for the procedure. Instead, only the lingual (tongue side) is conservatively prepped. There are two variations of Maryland bridges; a one-wing variation which is bonded or cemented on one abutment tooth, and a two-wing variation which is bonded or cemented on both adjacent abutment teeth.
This type of bridge is similar to the traditional fixed bridge, but instead of using natural teeth as anchors, it uses dental implants to anchor and support the bridge. This means that the implants need to be placed in the mouth first, and then the bridge is custom-fabricated to fit over the implants.
What to Expect at a Dental Office
The dental bridge procedure entails two separate appointments that should take a total of approximately 90 minutes to complete. The first appointment is usually longer and may take approximately 60 minutes, while the second visit should take about 30 minutes to complete.
During the first appointment, the dentist will prepare the adjacent teeth by removing a portion of the enamel to make room for the dental crowns. Next, an impression will be made of your teeth, which will be sent to a dental laboratory to create the bridge. A temporary bridge will be placed on your teeth while you wait for the permanent bridge to be created.
During the second appointment, the temporary bridge will be removed, and the permanent bridge will be placed on your teeth. The dentist will check the fit and make any necessary adjustments to ensure that the bridge fits properly and that your bite is correct. Your dentist will typically have you double-check to make sure that the color, bite, and shape are all to your liking before permanently cementing them to your mouth. Make sure to look out for the following:
- Color: The new bridge should blend in with your natural teeth and match the color of your smile.
- Bite: The bite should feel comfortable and you should not experience any pain when biting down.
- Shape: The bridge should fit the contours of your natural teeth and feel comfortable in your mouth.
After getting a dental bridge, it is important to practice good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly. Since a bridge prevents flossing between the abutment teeth, special attention needs to be paid to ensure proper cleaning of these areas. Some devices to help maintain proper cleaning include
- Floss threaders: They can help you get the floss under the bridge to reach and clean the abutment teeth.
- Water flossers: These devices send a stream of water that can help to remove plaque and debris from around the bridge.
Additionally, you should avoid hard or sticky foods that may damage the bridge. Finally, make sure to schedule regular dental checkups to ensure that your bridge remains in good condition.
If you are not a candidate for a dental bridge, there are other options available. These include:
- Dental Implants: A titanium post is surgically placed in the jawbone and topped with an artificial tooth that looks just like your natural teeth. Dental implants are usually a more expensive option, but they offer a more permanent, reliable solution.
- Partial Dentures: A removable prosthetic device that replaces several missing teeth, usually held in place by clasps on adjacent natural teeth. Partial dentures are less expensive than dental bridges, but they are not as durable and can be more uncomfortable to wear.
- Full Dentures: A removable prosthetic device that replaces all of the teeth in a single arch. Full dentures are usually very affordable and can be made to look like your natural teeth. However, they can be more uncomfortable to wear and require continual maintenance and adjustments.
- Removable Dental Bridge: This type of bridge is similar to a traditional bridge but is held in place with clips or other attachments rather than being permanently cemented into the mouth.
- Tooth Flipper: A removable prosthetic device that replaces one or two missing teeth. This option is much less expensive than a bridge, but it may not last as long and may require frequent adjustments. They also should not be worn while eating.
Deciding which type of restoration is best for you will depend on your individual needs. Your dentist can help answer any questions and provide advice to help you make the best decision.
Dental bridges can be an effective way to replace missing teeth, restore function and improve the appearance of your smile. They are durable and long-lasting, with proper care and maintenance. It is important to discuss the pros and cons of a dental bridge with your dentist, so you can make an informed decision about which type of bridge is best for you.
The contents of this website, such as text, graphics, images, and other material are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be substituted for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nothing on this website constitutes the practice of medicine, law or any other regulated profession.
No two mouths are the same, and each oral situation is unique. As such, it isn’t possible to give comprehensive advice or diagnose oral conditions based on articles alone. The best way to ensure you’re getting the best dental care possible is to visit a dentist in person for an examination and consultation.