When you're missing one or more teeth, it can be difficult to feel confident about your smile. When you're only missing one or two teeth, there is absolutely no reason to wear a partial denture, which can affect your speech and eating because of its often bulky design. You might also not want to spend the money on an implant because of the price involved. Not to mention that implants require surgery to have them placed and then at least three months for the implant to fully heal. A dental bridge is often the best choice for those who are missing one or two teeth and want to fill in the gap.
DENTAL BRIDGE - WHAT IT IS AND WHY IT IS NEEDED
A bridge involves several fake teeth that look and feel identical to what you already have in your mouth. The bridge will be attached to either one or more adjacent teeth, called the abutments, and a large fake crown, called the pontic, is placed in the space where you're missing a tooth. The term "dental bridge" gets its name because the appliance acts like a bridge, where the fake tooth is being supported by the surrounding teeth. Bridges are incredibly common in the dental industry and are almost identical to a crown, or cap as they are more commonly known. What makes a bridge different from a crown or cap is those nonexistent teeth are involved, whereas a crown only deals with one tooth that still has its roots.
DENTAL BRIDGE VS IMPLANT
An implant is a surgical procedure where a small, thin metal rod is placed beneath the gums. Over a period of about three months, the metal rod fuses with the bone of the jaw. The implant acts as the abutment for a crown to be placed. A crown can then be placed on top of the implant once it has been healed properly. A bridge, on the other hand, requires no surgery and can be done in as little as two to three visits to your dentist. The dental bridge is attached to one or more surrounding teeth and a fake tooth in the middle fills in the gap where you're missing a tooth. Implants do not rely on any surrounding teeth, so no other teeth are being compromised. Dental bridges often require that surrounding teeth be filed down to fit on properly.
DENTAL BRIDGE TYPES
There are four different types of bridges that you and your dentist can decide on. Which option best fits you is dependent upon the health of your teeth, how many teeth the bridge will be filling and where the bridge is going to be placed. It is important to discuss these options with your dentist prior to agreeing on one.
- Traditional Bridge - Traditional bridges are the most common and the most popular option. This bridge involves a pontic tooth, which fills in the gap where you're missing dentition. On either side of the pontic are two crowns known as abutments which will be cemented onto the adjacent teeth. Your dentist will need to file down the adjacent teeth in order for the bridge to fit.
- Maryland Bonded Bridge - The Maryland bonded bridge is preferred for those who do not want to compromise the integrity of the surrounding teeth. The bridge simply gets bonded to the front of the adjacent teeth and requires minimal filing for the appliance to fit properly. Because the bridge is only bonded to one surface of the tooth, Maryland bonded bridges aren't as structurally sound as traditional bridges.
- Cantilever Bridge - The cantilever bridge involves a pontic tooth which will fill in where you're missing dentition and then just one abutment that will be cemented to a surrounding tooth. Cantilever bridges are most often used in areas of the mouth where there is only one available tooth next to where you're missing dentition.
- Implant Supported Bridge - An implant supported bridge uses implants to keep the bridge in place, which adds security to the bridge to ensure that there is very little chance of it falling out and it also does not require that any surrounding teeth be compromised in order for the bridge to be placed.
DENTAL BRIDGE COST
Because there are so many different types of dental bridges, the price of each varies greatly. However, bridges can range in price from $500 for a small traditional appliance with one pontic and two abutments to up to $5,000 if implants and multiple pontics are required. If you have dental insurance, it could cover roughly 50 percent of the cost of having bridge work done. Some dental offices offer financing to make paying for the work more affordable.
THE DENTAL BRIDGE PROCEDURE
The procedure for having the bridge done is relatively easy and common in the dental office.
- Your first visit is going to involve some filing of the surrounding teeth where the bridge will be placed. Once the drilling and filing have been done, the dental staff will take an impression of the area and send it off to a lab where your bridge will be created for you. Oftentimes, you will go home after the first visit with a temporary bridge, which is not very structurally sound but makes up for the teeth you're missing.
- Your second visit involves having you come back and the real bridge placed. Dental cement will be used to place the bridge and then the dentist will file down the appliance as is necessary.
- Your third appointment will be made about a week later where the dentist will just ensure that the bridge is still in place and that it feels comfortable for you and is not causing you any problems.
HOW LONG DOES A DENTAL BRIDGE LAST?
Your bridge can last anywhere from five to 15 years depending on the quality of the bridge, how well it was cemented in place and how well you've taken care of it over the years of having it in your mouth. It's not uncommon for dental staff to see patients who have bridges in their mouths that are 20 to 30 years old. Your dentist will be able to tell you if your bridge is starting to come loose or needs to be replaced at your bi-annual checkups.
DENTAL BRIDGE PROBLEMS
Once a dental bridge has been cemented in, it's pretty much good-to-go for many years. However, there are instances when a problem could come into play. If the bridge was not made properly or was not cemented incorrectly, you could find that the appliance is coming out months after having it put in.
If the bridge cracks or breaks, you should visit your dentist to have it fixed, especially if the bridge is still relatively new and is under warranty by the office. Another problem that could come into play is if the bridge is uncomfortable for you. This might mean that the appliance just needs to be filed down by a dental professional or that you need to have the old one removed and a new one placed.
KEEPING YOUR BRIDGE IN GOOD SHAPE
In order for your bridge to last a long time, you need to keep it in good shape and practice routine oral hygiene. Brush your teeth and bridge twice a day with a soft bristle brush or power toothbrush. Use mouthwash to kill any germs that could eat away at the abutment teeth underneath the bridge. When using floss, be very careful near the bridge so that you do not pull either abutment off or loosen the bridge entirely. Water flossing or interdental brushes are often a good idea for those who have bridge work.
Whether you're younger or older, having a bridge is a good way to replace teeth that are missing and are unable to be crowned. If you'd rather forgo dental implant surgery, bridge work can be a more cost-effective and simple procedure that still lets you enjoy a bright and beautiful smile for many years to come.