What Are Dental Bridges?
Dental bridges are devices which replace missing teeth in the mouth. They are called dental bridges as they literally bridge the gap between teeth when one or more teeth is missing.
A dental bridge has at least one complete artificial tooth, which is known as a pontic. The pontics are held in place by crowns either side, and these are called abutments. Pontics and crowns can be made from a number of different materials, ranging from gold or silver to the more commonly used and aesthetically pleasing material of porcelain.
In order to affix a traditional dental bridge to a patient’s teeth, a dentist will file down the teeth either side of the gap and secure the crowns to these teeth, resulting in the central space being filled by the pontic tooth.
Dental bridges are an effective way of restoring the practical and aesthetic benefits of a complete set of teeth, and improving your oral health as a result. Advanced in dental technology mean that artificial crowns and pontics are able to match your natural teeth so well that it can be hard to spot the difference.
Who Needs a Dental Bridge?
An ideal candidate for a dental bridge is someone with one to three missing teeth, who has healthy teeth surrounding the gaps. Strong teeth either side of the missing tooth or teeth are required to support the bridge effectively so that it can be used over a long period of time. If you have more than three missing teeth you may be better off with a traditional denture type device.
What Different Types of Dental Bridges Are There?
There are two main types of dental bridge: the traditional crown supported bridges, and the more newly developed and modern implant supported bridges.
Crown Supported Bridges
Crown supported bridges are the traditional type of dental bridges, where the crowns are placed over existing teeth and the pontic fills in the gap from the missing tooth. The teeth on either side must be reshaped to allow space for the bridge and ensure that it has a secure base to be positioned on, resulting in a treatment that will remain effective for many years.
Types of Crown Supported Bridges
There are a few different types of crown supported bridges, including the traditional bridge, cantilever bridge and Maryland bonded bridge.
Traditional bridges are the most often used style of bridge, where two crowns support the one to three pontics in between them. These devices are generally produced using porcelain which is fused to ceramic or metal.
While no longer used very commonly, cantilever bridges are able to be used when there is only one healthy tooth next to the missing tooth or teeth. This style of bridge is less secure than the traditional style, as it only has one crown and as a result is only able to be affixed to one side of the gap. A cantilever bridge should not be fitted to the molar teeth in the back of the mouth, as it can damage other teeth and place too much extra pressure on them.
Maryland bonded bridges, which are also known as resin bonded bridges, feature wings made from metal or porcelain on one or both sides of the bridge which are bonded to the healthy teeth either side of the missing one. Maryland bonded bridges can be made from porcelain, a combination of porcelain and metal, or plastic components which are supported by a framework of either porcelain or metal.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Crown Supported Bridges
Crown supported bridges have the major benefit of being quick and easy to affix to your existing teeth, and they do not require lengthy or invasive procedures. Generally these types of bridges can be fitted successfully in just one or two trips to the dentist, with no further follow up required.
The downside to this is that crown supported bridges have a tendency to weaken the teeth either side of the pontic which support the whole device. This type of bridge also leaves you susceptible to jawbone degeneration, unlike the newer style of implant supported bridges.
Implant Supported Bridges
Recent advances and innovation in dentistry have brought us implant supported bridges, the most popular alternative to traditional crown supported bridges.
This style of bridge used an implant in place of a pontic, meaning you do not need to depend on the healthy teeth either side of the gap to support the bridge. A dental implant is achieved by placing a titanium post directly into the jawbone, and then attaching an abutment piece directly to this metal post. The metal implant effectively becomes a new tooth root, which makes this option strong, durable and able to last for years or even decades with correct care.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Implant Supported Bridges
Implant supported bridges offer numerous benefits and are considered by experts to be the top method of tooth replacement available. Unlike crown supported bridges, dental implants are very secure and will not slide or move out of position. They may cost more initially, but with proper upkeep they will last far longer than crown supported dental bridges and it is unlikely you will need to worry about replacement costs which makes them a worthy investment. Dental implants are the only kind of restorative treatment that can help to prevent degeneration in the jawbone, as by replacing the root of a tooth they emit signals required for remineralization of teeth.
The major drawback of implant supported dental bridges is that they require invasive oral surgery to be fitted. This means you will face a longer recovery period, increased tooth sensitivity after the surgical procedure, and the possibility or additional treatment beforehand, like a bone graft. The other drawback of this dental bridge is that it is considerably more costly than a traditional crown supported bridge.
How Much Do Dental Bridges Cost?
Dental bridges range in price depending on the type of dental bridge, number of teeth that need replacing, and various other factors.
However costs can be influenced by any of the following factors:
What Are the Risks and Side Effects Associated with Dental Bridges?
Although dental bridges are fairly low risk treatments, there are a number of things you should consider before getting one.
Firstly, traditional dental bridges require reshaping of neighboring teeth ready for the crowns, and this can increase the likelihood of damage and decay to the surface and nerves of the abutment teeth. If these teeth are not sufficiently healthy and strong, the whole bridge has the potential to collapse.
During the procedure of fitting a dental bridge, you may experience an allergic reaction; this could be due to the anaesthetic or the material used to create the bridge. If you have any known allergies, discuss these with your dentist prior to the treatment.
After having a dental bridge fitted, you may experience some temporary side effects. Some of these can be controlled with over the counter medicine, and it’s best to ask your dentist for advice on this.
Temporary side effects can include any of the following:
Is a Dental Bridge Right For You?
If you have one to three missing teeth but otherwise good overall oral health, a dental bridge is likely to be an effective and useful long term investment which will increase the functionality of your mouth and teeth, as well as improve its aesthetic appearance and give you more confidence to smile!