What is a dental bridge? Types and procedure

Nichole McKenna

Written by Nichole McKenna DDS, Jack Lawrence DMD

Dental bridges are fixed tooth restorations mounted on adjacent dentition. The supporting teeth are called abutments and the fake tooth is referred to as a pontic. The aim is to blend in with the smile, making it easier to speak, eat, and laugh.

They may be used as an alternative to implants or partial dentures. It all depends on what the patient is comfortable with and what a dental professional recommends.

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Who benefits from a dental bridge?

Dental bridges are a great choice for patients with missing teeth and some healthy neighboring dentition left for support. Among other advantages, such a restoration can prevent tooth movement and facial sagging.

Nichole McKenna

Nichole McKenna, DDS

For patients that have supporting teeth that do not require any dental work, implants may be recommended instead. This is to preserve the healthy tooth structure of these teeth.

Traditional dental bridge

Traditional dental bridge

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Cantilever bridge

Cantilever tooth bridge

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

A cantilever bridge needs only one abutment tooth. This means that a dental crown is attached to an adjacent tooth, filling the gap next to it with another one.

It doesn’t provide enough support for molars, so it is only recommended for front tooth restorations. The Journal of American Science reports a higher incidence of complications such as fractures or loose crowns than with traditional bridges.

Cantilever bridges can be manufactured from porcelain-fused-to-metal, porcelain on its own, and zirconia. They last for up to 10 years.

Maryland bridge

Maryland dental bridge

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Implant-supported bridge

Implant supported dental bridge

Picture by Authority Dental under CC 2.0 license

Dental bridge procedure

Dental bridges can often be installed in just 2 appointments. It all depends on the situation in your mouth and the type of bridge you need.

A temporary bridge will be fitted to protect the exposed teeth and gums. You’ll have to wear it until your restoration is ready to land in your mouth. This is usually made from temporary materials such as composite.

It’s a good idea to visit your dentist once more after about 4 weeks to make sure you are taking care of your bridge properly. Aftercare is an important step. If you adhere to the instructions, your bridge can serve you for many years. A good idea is to invest in a floss threader to properly clean underneath the bridge.

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FAQ

A dental bridge may be completed in as little as 2 appointments. They may each take about 2 hours. The visits are usually 2 weeks apart.

As with any dental restoration, it may take some time. The bridge will feel large and bulky at first, but you shouldn't have any trouble speaking, chewing, or sensing taste, as happens with dentures.

Most patients get used to having a dental bridge in their mouths after about 2 weeks.

Proper oral hygiene is the most important aspect of care. This goes for both your dental work as well as the remaining dentition. If the teeth that are supporting your bridge become damaged or infected, you may have to have a new one fitted.

Brush and floss your teeth and restoration every day. Gently move the string between the bridge and your gum to remove any food remains. Make sure to clean under your dental bridge and between the abutment and neighboring teeth too. Keep up with regular check-up appointments and professional cleanings. If anything is amiss, it’s best to catch it early on.

With proper care, dental bridges can last up to 15 years.

The biggest factor when comparing a dental bridge vs. implants is the price. Implants are a lot more expensive. Nonetheless, dentists may recommend an implant to patients considering replacement of a single tooth. Those are more durable and provide more comfort. They can be used and cared for as if they were natural teeth.

The downsides include the price and the fact that they take a long time to be completed. In some cases, the process can last up to 2 years including all healing periods. Additional procedures such as bone grafting may be necessary. What’s more, implants always require surgery.