What Is a Dental Bridge?

A Permanent Appliance That Replaces Missing Teeth

A dental bridge is a permanent appliance that replaces a missing tooth or missing teeth. It has several pieces that are fused together to fit into the open space where your tooth or teeth used to be. 

Dental bridges are an alternative to partial dentures. A bridge can help you eat and speak more effectively and also make your teeth look better.

A dental bridge can be made of different materials, including gold, alloys, or porcelain. When replacing a front tooth, porcelain is most often used because it can be matched to your natural tooth color.

This article will go over the different kinds of dental bridges. You will learn what to expect if you need to get a dental bridge placed, as well as the pros and cons of having a dental bridge.

Dental bridge
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Types of Dental Bridges

The artificial teeth used in dental bridges are called pontics. You'll have a pontic for each missing tooth. A pontic is made to be close in shape and size to the tooth that's missing.

Pontics are anchored to a tooth next to the gap (abutment teeth) or to a dental implant.

The four types of dental bridges are:

  1. Traditional fixed bridges are the most common type of bridge. It includes a crown on either side of the pontic(s).
  2. Maryland dental bridges or resin-bonded bridges are often used to replace front teeth. Instead of crowns, this type of dental bridge uses porcelain or metal frameworks with "wings" that are bonded to the back of your teeth on either side of the gap.
  3. Implant-supported bridges use an implant for each missing tooth that is surgically embedded into your jawbone during one procedure. The bridge contains the pontics and is placed over them in a later procedure.
  4. Cantilever bridges are no longer commonly used. When only one side of the gap has a natural tooth, the pontic(s) are anchored by a single crown on that natural tooth.

Advantages of Dental Bridges

Dental bridges can provide many benefits, including:

  • Giving your mouth and smile a natural look
  • Restoring your ability to speak normally, as missing teeth can make it hard to pronounce words (enunciate)
  • Maintaining normal facial structure by preventing bone loss from the jaw at the site of the missing tooth/teeth
  • Helping you chew food more efficiently
  • Preventing adjacent teeth from moving into the empty space, which can cause problems with your bite and other complications

Disadvantages of Dental Bridges

Dental bridges do have some disadvantages, including:

  • Future damage to the abutment teeth can compromise the bridge
  • Bacteria and plaque can get inside a bridge or crown that does not fit well and cause tooth decay
  • Crowns can change the structure of your teeth and affect your bite
  • A bridge can collapse if the abutment teeth are not strong enough to support it
  • Abutment teeth can be weakened by the procedure(s) and may have to be replaced by dental implants

Are You a Good Candidate for a Dental Bridge?

Not everyone is a good candidate for a dental bridge. You will need to talk to your dentist about whether it would be beneficial for you to get a bridge.

Factors that make you a good candidate for a dental bridge include:

  • Missing one or more permanent teeth
  • Having overall good health (e.g., no serious medical conditions, infections, or other health problems)
  • Having healthy teeth and a strong bone structure to support the bridge
  • Having good oral health
  • Can perform proper oral hygiene to maintain the condition of the dental bridge

Getting a Dental Bridge

For most dental bridges, you'll have at least two procedures performed, and the process can take a long time.

A Maryland bridge requires fewer appointments than the other types of dental bridges because the abutment teeth do not need to be prepared.

Regardless of the type 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.

Traditional or Cantilever Bridge

The first step to getting a traditional fixed or cantilever dental bridge is preparing the abutment tooth/teeth.

Your dentist will start by removing some of the enamel and dentin from the abutment teeth to make space for the crowns. Then, they'll place a temporary bridge over those teeth to protect them until the bridge is placed.

During a later appointment, your dentist will:

  1. Remove the temporary crowns
  2. Check the permanent crowns and bridge for a proper fit
  3. Cement the bridge in place

Sometimes, the bridge is permanently cemented during this procedure. However, your dentist may opt for temporary cement instead, which gives you time to make sure the bridge fits properly before it is made permanent.

Maryland Bridge

For a Maryland bridge, all that needs to happen to your abutment teeth is a little etching on the back side, which helps the wings bond to it.

Once it's tested for proper fit, your dentist will:

  1. Place the bridge
  2. Bond the metal wings to the abutment teeth with a strong resin
  3. Cure the resin

Implant-Supported Bridge

An implant-supported bridge requires surgery to place the implants in your jawbone followed by time for you to heal.

Healing time for an implant-supported bridge varies greatly depending on where in your mouth the implants are and whether your jawbone needs to be built up to support the implants.

You may have a temporary bridge to wear until your next procedure when your dentist will place the permanent bridge over the implants. This procedure involves small incisions in the gums, so healing time is greater than with other types of bridges.

Taking Care of a Dental Bridge

Dental bridges are considered "permanent" because you can't take them out like you can dentures; however, they don't last forever.

The average dental bridge lasts between five and seven years. With proper care, some bridges can last more than a decade. Advances in dental bridge materials and methods are likely to make them even more durable in the future.

The best way to get the most out of your dental bridge is to take proper care of it.

How to Make Your Dental Bridge Last

Good oral hygiene is important if you have a dental bridge because you want to keep your remaining teeth strong and healthy. Having good oral health is also important if you want a long lifespan for your bridge.

Just as with your natural teeth, you need to brush and floss your bridge at least twice each day.

Your dentist or dental hygienist will show you how to properly floss and clean around your bridge. It's also important to see your dentist regularly for dental cleanings and exams.

Dietary Changes

Right after your bridge is placed, you may need to be especially careful about what you eat as your mouth is healing. Your dentist will give you specific instructions to follow during that time.

In the long term, certain foods can cause problems for dental bridges or abutment teeth. If you want your bridge to last and avoid damaging it, you'll have to avoid these foods.

Foods you should avoid if you have a dental bridge include:

  • Chewy/sticky candy (can pull crowns off of the abutment teeth)
  • Hard candy or snacks
  • Sugary foods (can cause tooth decay under the crowns)
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts

Summary

There are advantages and disadvantages to getting a dental bridge, but studies have shown that with good oral hygiene and regular dental visits, a dental bridge can be an effective, long-lasting solution to missing teeth.

However, certain factors determine who is a good candidate for a dental bridge. Your dentist can help you decide if a dental bridge is right for you, as well as which type of dental bridge will be the best fit.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a dental cantilever bridge?

    A cantilever bridge is one type of dental bridge. It has an artificial tooth called a pontic that's connected to one abutment tooth (metal connector).

    A cantilever bridge type is not common today; it was mostly used for people who only had teeth on one side of a gap.

  • Which dental bridge is used for front teeth?

    In many cases, the Maryland dental bridge (resin-bonded bridge) is used if a person is missing front teeth. This type of dental bridge uses porcelain fused with a metal framework that connects to existing teeth.

  • What happens during a dental bridge procedure?

    A traditional dental bridge placement usually requires two appointments.

    During the first appointment, your dentist will prepare the abutment teeth and take impressions (digital scans) of your teeth. You'll get a temporary bridge while a dental laboratory creates your final dental bridge.

    During a second appointment, the temporary bridge will be replaced by the final, permanent dental bridge. Adjustments can be made to make sure the bridge is a comfortable fit.

  • How much does a dental bridge cost?

    If you have dental insurance, some or all of the cost of a dental bridge might be covered. The cost of a dental bridge without insurance can range from $700 to $1,500 per tooth.

  • Do I need a bone graft for a dental bridge?

    You may need a bone graft before you get a dental bridge if you've had a tooth taken out.

  • Is a dental bridge painful?

    You may have some 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.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Bethesda Family Dentistry. The Four Types of Dental Bridges.

  3. Brooklyn Heights Dentistry. Benefits and Risks of Dental Bridges.

  4. Gallagher Dentistry and Facial Pain Center. Fixed Dental Bridges.

  5. TruCare Dentistry. How Is a Cantilever Dental Bridge Different From Other Bridges?.

  6. Premier Dental Center. What Are Maryland Bridges?.

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By Sherry Christiansen
Sherry Christiansen is a medical writer with a healthcare background. She has worked in the hospital setting and collaborated on Alzheimer's research.