Dental Bridge

What is a dental bridge?

Women checking her smile at the dentist after getting a dental bridge put inA dental bridge is often referred to as a tooth bridge. Here, we will be referring to both, but they mean the same thing. A dental bridge is a structure that is created to simulate and replace a missing tooth. Dental bridges rely on the surrounding natural teeth for stabilization and installation. The “bridge” itself is two or more teeth (at least one artificial) used to fill a gap left by a missing tooth. There are a few different types of tooth bridges, but each one uses a cement-like substance to hold it in place permanently.

Why have a dental bridge?

Bridges fill the void left by missing teeth. Some people may believe that missing one, or a few, tooth/teeth have no adverse effects, but those people are wrong. Teeth work together unified to form one oral structure. The absence of any tooth affects all the remaining teeth. If missing tooth area is left untreated, then surrounding teeth (next to, above or below) may encroach into that territory. Tooth movement could cause discomfort, crooked teeth, uneven bite, spread of bacteria, and loss of more teeth. To avoid any of these negative consequences of tooth-loss, have a bridge installed to fill the vacancy.

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Types of Tooth Bridges

The first type of tooth bridge, which is also the most common, is the traditional bridge. The traditional bridge places one or more fake teeth, known as pontics, in between two natural teeth. The two natural teeth will work as anchors that the pontic will attach to.

Diagram of fixed partial teeth bridge showing how a dentist would perform the procedure

To attach firmly, the two adjacent teeth will be filed to fit an artificial tooth cap called a crown on top of them. The bridge will consist of the crowns on both sides of the pontic(s). The dental bridge is a single row of artificial teeth and crowns that do not disassemble. The traditional bridge is custom made to fit snugly to the shape of the natural teeth. The crowns are cemented onto the natural teeth locking the bridge into place.

The next type of bridge is known as a Maryland bridge (also resin-bonded bridge or resin-retained bridge). Maryland bridges use a resin or porcelain framework to attach a pontic to the teeth on both sides of a missing tooth. The framework is attached to the back side of each tooth. Unlike traditional and cantilever bridges, crowns and tooth shaving are not required for this type of bridge. However, because they are not cemented to natural teeth, the bond holding Maryland dental bridges in place is only as strong as their bonding material. For more information, please see Colgate's page on types of dental bridges

Dental bridge vs implant?

A question structured “1 v 2” is usually a compare and contrast of two different things, however a dental bridge and a dental implant can both be a part of the same tooth replacement structure.

A dental implant is a post which is surgically inserted into the jawbone for which artificial teeth attach and are anchored. A dental bridge is a combination of natural and artificial teeth that combine to form a structure to fill a gap where a tooth has vacated. One scenario where a dental bridge and dental implant can be one in the same is if there are bridges made of pontics that sit on top of several implant posts. Three, or more, artificial teeth may form a bridge between two implanted posts.

Bridges and implants can also exist in the same mouth independent of each other. If natural teeth are in place in one section of the mouth (top row or left side) and are missing in another section of the mouth (bottom row or right side), then there can be tooth bridges placed on the natural teeth and dental implants where multiple teeth are missing. If you had to choose between one option and the other, it would probably come down to what you need and your remaining tooth structure that would determine which procedure you receive.

Cost of a Tooth Bridge

The cost of having a dental bridge designed custom and installed depends on several factors including the dentist, the procedure technique, the materials, and more. On average bridges can cost anywhere from $500-$1500 per tooth. It is important to check with your dental insurance provider to see if, and how much of, the procedure is covered under your policy.

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