Dental bridges are literally a bridge for your teeth. They “bridge the gap” left by a single missing tooth or multiple missing teeth.
The two teeth on either side of the gap (where your natural tooth was) are the anchors for the bridge. A fake tooth is attached to the middle of the bridge and fills the space where the empty tooth cavity is.
This is the basic idea, but bridges can vary depending on how many teeth are missing, where they are located in the mouth, and the type of bridge used. Bridges, like any dental replacement, have pros and cons, risks and benefits.
Types Of Dental Bridges
There are a few types of dental bridges your dentist may use, so it may be a good idea to be familiar with their names and how they generally work.
Traditional Dental Bridge
These are considered “traditional” mainly because they’re used most often. They have one or more fake teeth (also called pontics) and the bridge is secured by dental crowns (also called abutments), which are cemented on the surrounding teeth.
Traditional bridges can be used anywhere in the mouth (even for missing molars) as long as you have natural teeth on either side of the missing tooth or teeth. And the number of fake teeth can vary, involving up to a 6-unit dental bridge.
Although one downside is that your dentist will need to remove the enamel from your natural teeth before placing the crowns on top. And because enamel doesn’t grow back, those teeth will always have to have crowns from that point on.
Maryland Dental Bridge
It’s a denture bridge involving a metal or porcelain frame with a tooth in the front, often with one or two wings that attach to the adjacent natural teeth.
There are plenty of benefits associated with using a Maryland Bridge. It’s a conservative, low-risk replacement option that is very strong (thanks to the composite resin it’s made of and the fact that it attaches to your natural teeth). They can also look very realistic, and they can be a permanent option.
However, it can be difficult to perfectly match the fake tooth with the space left by the missing tooth. So in order to get the pontic(s) to fit properly, your dentist may need to cut your surrounding teeth during the fitting. On top of that, this is the most expensive type of dental bridge.
While adhesive dentistry has seen a lot of improvements in recent years, Maryland bridges fell out of favor for a while due to concerns of aspirating the prosthesis if it were to come loose due to chewing forces. This type of bridge is usually only indicated to replace anterior teeth, though it can see success in the posterior region in select situations.
Cantilever Dental Bridge
If there’s a situation where you have only one natural tooth that can be used as an abutment, you can get a cantilever bridge.
They’re very similar to traditional bridges, with the main difference being they have just one supporting tooth rather than a tooth on both sides of the oral cavity.
It has similar pros and cons to the traditional bridge, like removing the enamel. But because there’s only one supporting tooth, this could lead to issues, like a fractured tooth or loosening of the crown.
If you’re missing multiple teeth, whether in a row or throughout your mouth, you can consider an implant-supported bridges.
Although ideal for when there are several missing teeth next to each other, this is also a great option for those with missing teeth not near each other.
As the name implies, these bridges are secured by dental implants. Usually, you’ll get one implant for each missing tooth and the bridge will attach to those implants. Although if this isn’t possible, your dentist can secure the whole replacement wit just two implant-supported crowns. This will end up being a much more affordable option.
What’s The Dental Bridge Procedure Like?
After consulting with your dentist and deciding on a dental bridge, you’ll schedule your first visit of the procedure.
During this first visit, the dentist will prepare the abutment teeth. This involves removing some of the enamel on the adjacent teeth to allow room for the crowns to be placed on over them.
The dentist will then make an impression of your teeth, which they will use to create the bridge, fake tooth, and crowns, all from the best material available (usually porcelain, ceramic, and/or metal). Because the bridge will most likely be made by a dental lab, you may not be able to get the replacement that day. So your dentist will make a temporary removable dental bridge for you to wear. It will help protect your exposed teeth and will allow you to still have teeth in the interim.
During the second visit, your dentist will remove the temporary bridge and insert the new, permanent dental bridge. It may be made of porcelain, metal, or both. They will check to make sure it fits properly and adjust as needed.
You may need to make multiple visits so your dentist can continue to check the fit and adjust it so it stays secure and comfortable.
The Cost Of A Dental Bridge
So how much does a dental bridge cost? And how much will the insurance company cover? Will Medicaid pay for your dental bridge?
Well, the answers to those questions depend on several factors, but the average cost of a dental bridge can range from $500 to $1,200 per unit (including abutments and pontics).
But here are a few of those deciding factors:
- The materials
- Whether the bridge was made in a dental lab or at the dentist’s office
- The type of dental bridge
- The dentist’s knowledge, experience, and location
- What your insurance plan or Medicaid will cover
So to get a more accurate estimate for the cost of your dental bridge, it’s best to speak with your dentist as well as your insurance company to see what’s covered.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does A Dental Bridge Last?
It depends on the type of bridge, the quality of the procedure, and how your body reacts and adapts to the replacements. But, generally speaking, a dental bridge can last anywhere from five to 15 years.
Is Getting A Dental Bridge Painful?
The short answer is yes, in some situations they can be. Obviously, your dentist will use anesthesia, but after the procedure and in the following weeks, you may experience some tooth and jaw pain. However, it’s very common for patients to be perfectly comfortable after the procedure. Everyone’s teeth react differently.
How Can I Get Dental Bridge Repaired?
The simple answer: take it to your dentist for repair. Trying to repair it yourself is probably not a good idea.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Dental Bridge?
Typically just a few days (see the “What’s The Dental Bridge Procedure Like?” section above).
How Is A Dental Bridge Made?
Typically, a bridge is made by a dental laboratory using porcelain or acrylic, often with a metal framework. Although sometimes, the dentist’s office can make a bridge in-house.
How Should I Clean My Dental Bridge?
Basically, you should clean and care for your dental bridge like you would your natural teeth. So that includes brushing and flossing. But because it’s a denture, you will want to get underneath the fake tooth either with a denture brush or an oral irrigation device.
My Dental Bridge Is Causing Me Pain
Call your dentist and set up an appointment. They can figure out why it’s hurting and how to correct it. In the meantime, you can get denture pain cream to help soothe the discomfort.
My Dental Bridge Is Loose
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may have a loose dental bridge:
- Bridge moves when touched
- Your teeth and/or gums are extra sensitive
- Issues with your bite
- Discomfort wearing the dental bridge
- A bad taste in your mouth (from food stuck between the bridge or related tooth decay)
If you have a loose bridge, the best option is to visit your dentist’s office as soon as possible. However, sometimes that’s not immediately possible and you may want a solution in the meantime. If you’re comfortable making adjustments yourself, here’s how to fix a loose dental bridge at home:
- Buy dental cement at your local pharmacy
- Clean the inside of the bridge
- Dry your teeth and the bridge
- Follow the directions included with the dental cement (the instructions vary, so this step is important)
- Clean up any excess cement after it hardens
My Dental Bridge Fell Out
If your dental bridge came off and fell out, you’ll first want to speak with your dentist. They may want to see you in-person. In the meantime, you can try these steps for putting your replacement back in:
- Remove any debris from around your tooth/teeth/crown
- Put the crown over the intended tooth to test
- With little to no pressure, close your teeth together to make sure the crown is on properly
- Then remove the crown and fill part of it with denture adhesive
- Put the crown back on the tooth
- Again, with little to no pressure, close your teeth together to make sure it’s on correctly
- Wipe away any extra adhesive
Now you know about the four main types of dental bridges. Just as a refresher, they are: Cantilever, Implant-Supported, Maryland, and Traditional. They each serve a different purpose, so you and your dentist will pick the most appropriate option.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you know how to mentally prepare for the procedure. Being familiar with the steps and the length of this process should help prep you. Just to summarize, your dentist will first treat the area, then remove the temporary bridge, place the permanent dental bridge, and schedule follow-up visits.