People lose teeth for a variety of reasons, including injury, decay and illness. It’s common for adults to have at least one missing tooth. In fact, an estimated 4% of Canadians between age 40 and 59 have no natural teeth at all.
While it may be common to lose teeth, it’s still important to replace them. Replacing your missing teeth can help prevent bone loss in the jaw and keep your teeth from shifting.
There are several options for replacing missing teeth, but dental bridges are a popular choice. If you’re considering a dental bridge to replace your missing tooth or teeth, here are nine important things you should know.
9 Things to Know About Dental Bridges
1. Dental Bridges Help Replace Missing Teeth
A dental bridge is designed to replace missing teeth. They literally bridge the gap between the abutment teeth to help prevent shifting and other complications caused by missing teeth.
Dental bridges consist of a false tooth (pontic) that is held in place by abutment teeth on either side of the missing tooth. Most bridges are made from porcelain and blend in naturally with your teeth, but they can also be made from other materials, such as gold.
Not everyone is a good candidate for a dental bridge. Your abutment teeth need to be healthy for a bridge to be viable.
2. There are Four Main Types of Dental Bridges
There are four primary types of dental bridges. While they all share the same goal, they each work a little differently.
With a traditional bridge, false teeth are held in place by crowns that are cemented onto the abutment teeth.
Traditional dental bridges are the most popular type, and they are typically used when you still have natural teeth on both sides of your missing tooth.
Maryland Dental Bridge
A Maryland dental bridge is very similar to a traditional bridge. However, rather than using crowns on the abutment teeth, they use a metal or porcelain framework that is bonded to the abutment teeth.
This type of bridge is also used when you have natural teeth on both sides of the missing tooth.
Cantilever Dental Bridge
A cantilever dental bridge is an option for those who only have one natural tooth next to the missing tooth. In this case, the bridge is held in place by a crown cemented into one abutment tooth.
An implant-supported bridge uses implants instead of frameworks or crowns to support the false tooth.
Implants are surgically placed for each missing tooth, and they are what keep the bridge in place. Sometimes, it’s not possible to insert an implant for each missing tooth. In this case, a false tooth may be suspended between two crowns supported by implants.
Implant-supported bridges are considered to be the most stable and longest-lasting option. However, they do require multiple visits and surgeries.
- One surgery is needed to insert the implant into the jawbone.
- Another surgery is needed to place the bridge.
From start to finish, the entire process can take several months.
3. Costs Will Depend on The Type of Bridge You Choose
Dental bridges are generally considered an affordable option for replacing missing teeth. However, the costs can still be significant and will depend on several factors, including:
- The type of bridge you choose
- Difficulty of placement
- Materials used (resin, metal alloy, zirconia, etc.)
- Whether additional treatments are needed
- How many teeth are needed to fill the gap
Generally, patients can expect to spend a minimum of $1,500 for their bridges.
4. A Dental Bridge Can Last 10 Years
With proper care and regular visits with your dentist, a dental bridge can last 10 years or more. Implant bridges are more durable and can last a lifetime, although the crown may need to be replaced every so often.
However, most bridges will need to be replaced every 10-15 years. The key most important thing is to make sure that you’re brushing and flossing regularly. Good oral hygiene and regular visits with your dentist will help you get the most out of your bridges.
Cantilever bridges, in particular, need special care because they are only supported by a single tooth. Therefore, your gums must be healthy for them to last.
5. Cleaning and Care are Similar to Your Natural Teeth
A dental bridge requires regular cleaning and care, just like your natural teeth. Once your bridge has been placed, you will be educated on how to care for it, including:
- Brushing twice daily
- Flossing once per day
- How to use a floss threader or dental pick under and around the false tooth or teeth
Regular cleanings are also important to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Proper oral hygiene and good gum health will both play an important role in making sure your bridge lasts.
In addition to brushing, flossing and professional cleanings, it’s also important to:
- Avoid eating hard foods, like raw vegetables, nuts and ice cubes. Hard foods can damage or dislodge your bridge, and repair may not necessarily be possible.
- Avoid smoking or using other tobacco products. Smoking can increase the risk of tooth decay, gum disease and tooth loss.
- Eat healthy foods. Sugary or acidic foods can not only shorten the lifespan of your dental bridge but your natural teeth as well.
It’s worth the time and effort to care for your bridges properly so that they last as long as possible.
6. Bridges Require at Least Two Office Visits
Dental bridges typically require at least two office visits – one to prepare the abutment teeth, and one to place the bridge.
The process starts with an initial visit to ensure that you’re a good candidate for a bridge. Your dentist will likely take X-rays of your jaw and examine the area before discussing your options with you.
First Appointment: Preparing the Abutment Teeth and Temporary Bridge
If the abutment teeth are healthy enough to support a bridge, they will need to be prepared for the placement of the bridge. The teeth will need to first be shaped. A local anesthetic is used for the procedure so that you don’t experience pain or discomfort.
Once the teeth have been shaped, impressions will be taken and sent to a lab. Your false teeth will be made to resemble your natural tooth color, so a sample color will also be taken.
You may be fitted with a temporary bridge until your permanent bridge arrives from the lab.
Second Appointment: Placing the Permanent Bridge
During the second appointment, the permanent bridge will be placed. A local anesthetic will be used again to make the process as comfortable as possible.
First, the temporary bridge will be removed, and the underlying teeth may be cleaned. Then, dental cement will be used to put the bridge permanently in place.
7. Dental Bridges Can Make It Easier to Eat and Speak
Many patients worry that bridges will make it harder to eat and speak, but the opposite is true. Replacing missing teeth often makes it much easier and more comfortable to eat. Additionally, missing teeth can affect your speech, so bridges may also help resolve this issue.
It may take some time to get used to eating with your new dental bridge. Initially, it may be best to stick to soft foods until you learn how to chew with your new bridge.
8. Dental Bridges Can Be Made from Many Types of Materials
Dental bridges can be made from a variety of materials, including:
- Porcelain fused to metal, or PFM: These bridges can be made to imitate the look of natural teeth. Metal adds durability, and the porcelain adds the natural tooth color and appearance. PFM bridges are often preferred for front and back teeth.
- Gold: The strongest material used for bridges. Gold is wear-resistant and does not affect gum tissue. While gold has many benefits, it does not look natural. For this reason, it is typically chosen for replacing back teeth.
- Porcelain fused to zirconia: These bridges look the most natural and are less sensitive to cold and hot temperatures. In addition, they are both metal-free and fracture-resistant.
These are the most common materials used to create dental bridges. Your dentist will discuss your options and make recommendations to help you choose the best material for your mouth.
9. Not Everyone is a Candidate for a Dental Bridge
While bridges are a common and popular choice for replacing missing teeth, they aren’t for everyone. You may be a good candidate for a dental bridge if you:
- Are missing one or more of your permanent teeth
- Have good oral health
- Have overall good health
- Have the bone structure and teeth to support the bridge
Your dentist will help you determine whether a dental bridge is the right choice for you.
Dental Bridges Can Help Restore Your Smile
If you have one or more missing teeth, a dental bridge is an affordable and practical option for replacing those teeth. Along with making it easier to eat, your new bridge will also help restore your smile and boost your confidence.