For patients uncomfortable and bothered by missing teeth, dental bridges can help bridge the gaps in their smile. Dental bridges are becoming an increasingly common procedure with an estimated fifteen million Americans missing at least one or more teeth. By learning about the types of dental bridges, who is a good candidate for the procedure, how they work, and the benefits of getting them, patients can be better prepared to speak with their dentist.
Types of Dental Bridges
There are several types of dental bridges that dentists typically use. Which kind of dental bridge is used depends on each patient’s individual oral health circumstances and needs. The three primary types of dental bridges that are commonly used include:
1. Traditional bridges
A traditional bridge relies on a minimum of two but could be attached to multiple dental crowns cemented in place for an anchor on natural teeth. Of all the types of dental bridges, this one is used most frequently.
2. Implant supported bridges
An implant supported bridge anchors to two or more attachments on previously placed implants. It provides a great replacement of missing teeth at a lower cost than replacing each tooth individually with an implant.
3. Maryland bonded bridges
Maryland bridges are used when there is still a remaining natural healthy tooth on either side of a gap. Instead of using crowns for anchoring, this type of bridge usually utilizes porcelain or metal wings extending on the back of the anchor to bond to the teeth and keep the bridge in place.
4. Cantilever bridges
Cantilever bridges typically use a dental crown on one adjacent tooth to anchor the bridge. This type of bridge is not generally recommended for teeth missing in the back of the mouth.
It is important for patients to see a dentist to effectively determine which type of dental bridge is best suited for their individual needs.
Who is a Candidate for Dental Bridges?
Individuals missing only a few teeth may be a good candidate for dental bridges. Some patients choose to pursue a dental bridge for aesthetic reasons, but these devices may also aid with oral health as well. If you suspect you would be a good candidate for a dental bridge, consider making a consultation appointment with a dentist.
How Dental Bridges Work
The key to having a dental bridge work properly is customization. Dental bridges are not one size fits all implements. For this reason, the creation of dental bridges could vary slightly from patient to patient, but the majority of dental bridges are made following this process:
- Examination. Before a dentist begins any work, he or she will likely do a thorough examination of the teeth and surrounding areas visually and with x-rays to observe the state of potentially supporting teeth.
- Crown preparation. For patients getting a cantilever, traditional, or a Maryland bridge, the teeth that will function as support must first be prepared by filing down some of the enamel for a better crown fit. In the case of implant supported bridges, implants previously placed need to be stable in bone before they are ready for impressions. This may take 3-4 months from the time of implant placement.
- Impressions. The dental staff will likely then make impressions of the patient’s teeth. This impression of the teeth will aid the dentist and specialty labs in creating a customized crown. During this step, a dentist also usually works with a patient to determine the proper color needed for a crown so it can blend in seamlessly with existing permanent teeth.
- Temporary bridge installation. While the dentist or lab is crafting customized dental bridges, patients must use a temporary bridge to protect teeth that have already been filed down and prevent teeth from shifting.
- Official bridge installation. An official bridge installation usually occurs at a later visit when it has been perfected. The new bridge may require a small adjustment period for patients and could require some professional bridge adjustments by a dentist to ensure a proper fit.
Benefits of Dental Bridges
There can be both aesthetic and oral health benefits to a patient getting a dental bridge. While each benefit serves different purposes, each may be vitally important to a patient.
Aesthetic benefits may include:
- A more complete smile which may in turn increase self-confidence
- Assist with maintaining the natural shape of the face
Oral health benefits can include:
- Ability to better chew and speak
- Keeping permanent teeth from shifting
- Helping to distribute the force in a patient’s bite
Depending on a patient’s specific dental insurance, some plans may cover some or part of the cost of dental bridge procedures. To find out what your insurance will cover, speak with your dentist about how to get started.
Things to Expect After Getting Dental Bridges
While a dental bridge typically makes eating and speaking easier for most patients, they can require some getting used to first.
When it comes to eating, most dentists recommend that their patients start with small bites of soft foods and minimize or avoid hard or sticky foods.
Patients may also find that their words can sound slightly different. This is usually due in large part to now having a more complete set of teeth that helps the patient more efficiently form sounds and words.
During this period of transition, patients should give themselves some grace as they learn what daily life will taste and sound like with a full set of teeth.
How to Care for Dental Bridges
Dental bridges are not a permanent fixture. They are created to be long lasting and may last up to as long as fifteen years if they are properly cared for. Extending the life of a dental bridge is 100% dependent on the patient practicing good oral hygiene on a regular basis, including brushing, flossing and using a waterpik.
Patients receiving a dental bridge should also make it a point to visit their dentist regularly. During these appointments, the dentist can evaluate the effectiveness of the current bridge and make any necessary adjustments. Skipping maintenance appointments could contribute to faster deterioration of the supporting teeth and a failure of a bridge.
If you think you are a good candidate or you are interested in learning more about dental bridges, make a consultation appointment with a dentist today.
How much does it cost to get a bridge for dental?
The cost of a dental bridge depends on the type of bridge used and the number of artificial teeth included.
Do dental bridges look natural?
Dentists who work with specialty labs can help ensure that a dental bridge looks natural.
Are dental bridges permanent?
Dental bridges are not permanent but could possibly last up to fifteen years if properly cared for.
Do dental bridges feel normal?
There is usually a short adjustment period for patients to get used to new dental bridges.
Can you eat with a dental bridge?
Patients can eat with a dental bridge but are often discouraged from eating overly hard or sticky foods.