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The Complete Guide to Dental Bridges: Pros, Cons, Lifespan, and Worth

Dentist showing a patient a jaw model

If you’re missing one or more permanent teeth, which affects your quality of life, dental bridges may be an excellent option. Dental bridges are a type of dental prosthesis that literally “bridges” the gap between missing teeth. They’re custom-made and designed to look like natural teeth, restoring your smile and improving your ability to chew and speak properly.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to dental bridges, including their pros and cons, lifespan, and worth. By the end of this post, the common question, “Are dental bridges worth it?” will be answered.

What Is a Dental Bridge?

A dental bridge is a custom-made restoration that helps fill the space where an original tooth once was. It could be an alternative to partial dentures. Anchored to your natural healthy teeth on either side of the gap (or abutment teeth), a replacement tooth or teeth are held firmly in place. In some cases, dental implants may be used as abutment teeth.

The false tooth, also known as a pontic, often consists of porcelain for a natural look. It can also be created from gold, alloy, or a combination of these materials.

Types of Dental Bridges

1. Traditional Bridges

A traditional dental bridge is the most common type of bridge. It consists of a false tooth or teeth being held in place by dental crowns cemented into each abutment tooth. A traditional bridge is the most popular type of dental bridge and can be used when you have natural teeth on both sides of the gap created by your missing natural tooth.

2. Cantilever Bridges

Although similar to a traditional bridge, the pontic in a cantilever dental bridge is held in place by a dental crown cemented to only one adjacent tooth. You only need one natural tooth next to the missing tooth gap for a cantilever bridge.

3. Resin Bonded Bridge or Maryland Bridge

Like a traditional bridge, Maryland dental bridges employ two natural abutment teeth, one on each side of the gap. However, while a traditional bridge uses dental crowns on the abutment teeth, a Maryland bridge uses a metal framework of either metal or porcelain bonded into the backs of the abutment teeth. Like a traditional bridge, a Maryland bridge can only be used when you have a natural tooth on each side of the gap caused by the missing tooth or teeth.

4. Implant-Supported Dental Bridge

As the name implies, implant-supported bridges use dental implants instead of crowns or frameworks. Typically, one implant is surgically placed for every missing tooth, holding the bridge in position. If one implant for each missing tooth isn’t possible, the bridge may have a pontic suspended between two implant-supported crowns.

Considered the strongest and most stable system, an implant-supported bridge commonly requires two surgeries. This procedure involves small incisions in the gums, so healing time is longer than other types of bridges.

Regardless of the type of bridge treatment you go with, your dentist will need to take impressions or a digital scan of your teeth that the lab will use to shape the components of the bridge. You’ll be given a temporary bridge to protect the exposed areas while your permanent bridge is being made.

Dental Bridges Pros and Cons

A brighter smile is not the only advantage here. This dental restoration helps restore your ability to chew and speak properly, maintain the shape of your face, prevent remaining teeth from moving out of their correct position, and ease your smile worries.

However, the placement of bridges does entail significant alteration to the abutment teeth, which can lead to future tooth decay if not adequately maintained. The lifespan of bridges may also require their replacement after a period.

Benefits:

  • Offer a natural-looking solution for tooth loss
  • Restore chewing and speech function (missing teeth can make it difficult to eat or speak properly)
  • Prevent neighboring teeth from shifting into the gap left behind by missing teeth

Risks:

  • If decay or trauma results in damage to your abutment teeth, it can weaken your dental bridge
  • If your abutment teeth aren’t strong enough to support your bridge, they can fracture
  • If you don’t properly clean the bridge and underlying gum tissue, plaque, and bacteria can cause gum inflammation or cavities

How Do Dental Bridges Work?

Getting this dental treatment is typically a two-visit process. After your initial consultation, here’s a step-by-step explanation of how they function:

Step 1: Preparation

The process begins with preparing the abutment teeth, which are the teeth on either side of the gap. The dentist will recontour these teeth by removing a portion of their enamel to allow room for a crown to be placed over them.

Step 2: Impression Making

Next, the dentist takes an impression of the patient’s teeth, which serves as a model from which the dental lab will make the bridge, pontic (false tooth), and crowns. The dentist will create a temporary bridge to protect the exposed teeth and gums while the dental lab makes the bridge.

Step 3: Placement of Bridge

Once the dental lab has created the bridge, the dentist removes the temporary bridge and places the new one. The crowns on either end of the bridge fit over the prepared abutment teeth, and the pontic fills in the gap.

Step 4: Adjustment and Cementing

The Complete Guide to Dental Bridges: Pros, Cons, Lifespan, and WorthThe new bridge is checked and adjusted to achieve the proper fit. It can be temporarily cemented so the dentist can check its fit and make adjustments as necessary over a couple of weeks. Once all adjustments have been made, the bridge is permanently placed using dental cement.

In the case of an implant-supported bridge, the process differs slightly. Instead of preparing natural teeth as abutments, the dentist surgically implants small titanium posts into the jawbone. These implants serve as the support for the bridge.

The result is a restoration that blends in with the rest of the teeth, restores function for chewing and speaking and helps maintain the shape of the face by supporting the structures around the mouth.

Do I Need a Bone Graft for a Dental Bridge?

You may need a bone graft before getting a dental bridge if you’ve had a tooth removed. If it’s the case with most dental procedures, you may have pain and discomfort after a dental bridge procedure as your mouth is healing and adjusting. Once you’ve recovered, your dental bridge should not hurt or be uncomfortable.

Will It Be Difficult to Eat With a Dental Bridge?

Replacing missing teeth with a dental bridge should make eating easier. A few days after your procedure, eat soft foods cut into small pieces until you become accustomed to the bridge.

What Is the Lifespan of Dental Bridges?

The longevity of dental bridges depends heavily on two factors: the quality of the materials used and excellent oral hygiene. With proper care, bridges can last between five and 15 years or more.

How Much Do Dental Bridges Cost?

The cost of dental bridges can vary widely depending on several factors, including the type of bridge, the materials used, the complexity of the placement, and the region in which you live.

On average, the cost of a tooth bridge can start from $4,313. For uninsured patients, the cost can range from $500 to $1,500 out of pocket, with the number of teeth in the dental bridge contributing to the overall cost.

Some dental insurance can pay a percentage of the fee depending on the individual dental plan.

How to Care for Your Dental Bridges

Proper care for your dental bridges is an integral aspect of your dental health regimen. The following steps provide a practical guide on optimizing your oral hygiene and prolonging your bridges’ lifespan.

  • Regular Brushing and Flossing: Begin with daily brushing and flossing, which are crucial practices. Attention should be paid to the false tooth and the abutment teeth, the natural teeth on either side of the bridge.
  • Use of Antiseptic Mouthwash: Using an antiseptic mouthwash is another effective means of preventing tooth decay and gum diseases. This oral care product helps to clean areas of the mouth where the toothbrush can’t reach, especially under the dental bridges.
  • Regular Dental Check-ups: Regular visits to your dentist are also essential. These check-ups will ensure the proper alignment of your dental bridge and permit early detection of any potential complications. Your dentist or hygienist will show you the best way to clean your new bridge. Taking preventive measures often saves you from expensive corrective procedures down the line.

By following these steps, you can contribute positively to your oral health and the longevity of your dental bridges. It’s about making these practices a part of your daily oral care routine.

Are Dental Bridges Worth It?

Dental bridges, whether traditional, cantilever, or resin-bonded, restore your lost confidence due to missing teeth and help maintain your oral health. It prevents complications like jawbone resorption, neighboring tooth displacement, and facial shape changes.

Considering these benefits, dental bridges may be worth it for many people.

If you’re interested in dental bridges, contact us to schedule an initial consultation. We can assess your eligibility, and if you are a good candidate, we will create a treatment plan. Our dentists have been performing this procedure for years. We are also equipped with modern dental technology to help us provide efficient and positive results.