Dental bridges are a long-established restoration for missing teeth. While dental implants seem to get most of the attention nowadays, a bridge may still be the best solution to keeping your smile — as well as your ability to chew, should the bridge be used to replace missing molars. A dental bridge is a false tooth (called a pontic) that is held in place by the abutment teeth on either side of the gap. Although pontics can be made from a variety of materials such as gold or alloys, they’re usually made from porcelain to aesthetically blend in with your natural teeth.
Types of Dental Bridges
Typically, your dentist will discuss the type of restoration that is best for your mouth on both a functional and aesthetic level before removing a tooth. If one or more teeth are lost due to periodontitis or injury, your dentist will evaluate whether you’re a good candidate for a bridge, or need another kind of restoration.
Assuming a bridge is appropriate, your dentist may recommend one of the following types, depending upon the location of the missing tooth. There are four primary types of bridges:
- Traditional fixed bridge: This is the most common type of bridge. It includes a crown on either side of the pontic.
- Maryland dental bridge or resin-bonded bridge: This is often used to replace front teeth. Instead of crowns, it uses porcelain or metal frameworks with “wings” that are bonded to the back of your teeth on either side of the gap. As with 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.
- Implant-supported bridge: An implant for each missing tooth is surgically embedded into your jawbone in one procedure. The bridge, which contains the pontics, is placed over them in a later procedure.
- Cantilever bridge: This one is no longer commonly used. When only one side of the gap contains a natural tooth, the pontic(s) are anchored by a single crown on that natural tooth.
The implant-supported bridge is considered to be the strongest. However, it does require two surgeries — one to imbed the implants and the second to place the bridge. Factoring in recovery, it can take a few months for the process to be completed. Our blog post — “What Happens During A Dental Implant Surgery” — provides more information.
Why Your Dentist May Recommend a Bridge
If your gums are healthy and the teeth on either side of the gap caused by a missing tooth are strong and cavity-free, they should be able to support a dental bridge. While some people may not see the need for replacing back teeth that don’t show while smiling, restoring missing teeth regardless of their location is necessary for the following reasons:
- Restoring the ability to speak normally, as missing teeth can impede speech patterns.
- Maintaining normal facial structure by preventing bone loss from the jaw at the site of the missing tooth/teeth.
- Restoring the ability to chew food efficiently.
- Preventing adjacent teeth from moving into the vacant space, which can cause problems with your bite and lead to other complications due to stress on the jawbone.
What You Can Expect During a Dental Bridge Procedure
A dental bridge typically involves two appointments. Cleveland Clinic outlines the basic process for a dental bridge procedure as follows:
- Abutment teeth preparation: During your first visit, your dentist will reshape the abutment teeth. Part of the enamel and dentin will be removed so there’s room for the crown.
- Impressions: Your dentist will take impressions or a digital scan of your teeth. A dental laboratory uses the mold or scan as a model to create your bridge, false teeth and crowns. You’ll have a temporary bridge to protect the exposed areas in your mouth while the lab makes your bridge.
- Permanent bridge placement: During your second visit, your dentist will remove the temporary bridge and place the permanent bridge. Your dentist will then carefully check the bridge and make any needed adjustments to be sure it fits you comfortably.
The Take-Home Message
A dental bridge can be the ideal solution to restore one or more missing teeth, but the decision should ultimately be reached by a discussion between you and your dentist.
At NK Family Dental, it is our mission to provide the highest quality and most compassionate oral care to our Chicago patients, including both dental and periodontal services. Our dental specialists include our general dentist, Dr. Nilofer Khan, our periodontist, Dr. Amir Danesh, and our endodontist, Dr. Sabek.
We understand that the main concern you may have is cost, which is why we accept all major PPO plans for dental insurance and also offer our in-house dental plan. Please see our financing page for more information.