Dental bridges are used to connect the space between teeth when there is a gap or missing tooth. The bridge consists of a false tooth called a pontic which is anchored by two dental crowns on adjacent teeth called abutments. The artificial tooth or teeth in the bridge can be made from metal like silver or gold or a more natural-looking material like porcelain or composite. The dental bridge is anchored on each side by natural teeth or dental implants if necessary.
Dental bridges can be essential to fill gaps between teeth making a smile whole and complete. There can be many reasons for tooth loss including:
Disease or decay
Genetic or medical reason (ectodermal dysplasia)
Not only do missing teeth impair a full, beautiful smile but they also affect your bite, chewing, jaw structure, speech, and the shape of your face. Missing teeth disrupt the entire functionality of the mouth as the teeth around, above, or below the gap will start to shift. It is important to address gaps before all your remaining teeth shift into the missing spaces.
The most common missing or extracted teeth are wisdom teeth, upper lateral incisors, and second premolar/bicuspids.
While removable partial dentures or false teeth and dental implants are also solutions to fill missing gaps, dentists will often suggest dental bridges instead. Bridges are the best option as they are fixed dental prostheses, proven to be the most effective, and are the most affordable.
Who’s a candidate?
Anyone who is missing between one and three teeth is a candidate for a dental bridge. Additionally, anyone who has undergone a dental procedure that resulted in tooth extraction will need a dental bridge to replace the missing tooth.
A good candidate for a dental bridge has good oral hygiene and strong teeth. If the patient needs dental implants in order to provide anchors for the dental bridge, they must have healthy bone volume to support the implant posts.
Who isn’t a candidate?
Patients who do not have strong enough teeth to provide good anchors for the dental bridge should not receive a dental bridge. Because the bridge relies on the integrity of the teeth on either side, a good candidate for a dental bridge must have healthy gums and teeth free from decay or disease. A dentist may suggest fixing these kinds of issues before the abutments are placed on the anchor teeth.
Furthermore, patients who have bone degeneration may not be good candidates for dental implants if those are needed to support the bridge. If this is the case, a dentist may recommend a bone graft in order to support an implant post.
Dental bridges are also not suggested for pediatric patients. Therefore, children are also not good candidates for dental bridges. If a child loses a premature tooth outside of natural causes such as during a sports accident or decay, our dentists may suggest a space maintainer. This will keep the teeth from shifting until the permanent tooth comes in.
If the child loses a permanent tooth, they will have to wait until 16 or 17 when their jaw and teeth stop developing to receive a fixed dental bridge. The space maintainer would have to be in place until this time.
Types of Dental Bridges
There are generally three types of bridges:
This is the most common type of bridge. These involve applying crowns, or abutments, to the teeth or implant on each side of the gap while the artificial tooth or teeth (pontics) go in the place of the missing teeth. The pontic is typically made of a metal alloy, ceramics, or a combination of the two.
These types of bridges aren’t used as much anymore as they put a lot of pressure on the neighboring tooth. They are bridges that are used when there is only one adjacent tooth on the side of the gap. As such, they are used when there is only one missing tooth.
Maryland Bonded (Resin-Bonded) Bridges
These bridges are typically made with plastic teeth and gums and supported by metal framework. The metal wings are then attached or bonded to the teeth on both sides of the gap.
Dental Bridge Materials
The pontics, or artificial teeth that make up the dental bridge, can be made from a few different materials. Our dentists will go over the options for different materials to discuss budget, aesthetic goals, and bridge placement.
Pontics made from porcelain are a natural-looking option to fill in gaps. While these may be the most expensive option, they are the most discreet and dependable way to fill in a smile. Many patients look at porcelain bridges as a life-long investment to restore their smile. Porcelain pontics are strong, lifelike, and long-lasting.
Zirconia is a ceramic material used to make artificial teeth. Zirconia pontics are very strong, like metal bridges. They are also made to match the color of your natural enamel and slightly translucent, making them a great, lifelike option to fill in the missing gaps in your smile.
Gold or Metal Alloy Pontics
Some patients prefer the look of gold or silver in their mouths. In that case, the pontics in a dental bridge can be made with gold or another metal alloy like silver, platinum, or palladium. Each of these metals is biocompatible, durable, and highly resistant to wear and tear and corrosion.
Porcelain-Fused-to-Metal (PFM) Pontics
Pontics can also be made of a metal alloy base with a thin layer of porcelain fused on to make it look like a real tooth. The metals that are typically used are noble metals including gold, platinum, palladium, and silver. Each of these metals is biocompatible and highly resistant to corrosion and oxidation. The porcelain layer is resistant to stain and makes the pontic hard to distinguish from natural tooth enamel.
The first step in applying a dental bridge is to prepare the teeth on each side of the gap for the crowns or abutments. Our dentists will prepare the tooth by shaving or resizing it to correctly fit the crown. The crown is a permanent cap on the tooth so it must be placed right. Furthermore, the crown must be shaped right in order to fit the pontic.
The dentist will then take an impression of your teeth using either putty or a digital scanner. These impressions are used to create your dental bridge. While we do offer dental laboratory services at our offices at Brunelli Dental Practices and offer same-day bridges and crowns, there are situations where we have to send out impressions to make the bridge.
In this case, you will be fitted for a temporary bridge as a placeholder. You must be careful to avoid sticky or hard foods so you don’t damage the temporary bridge as you wait for the permanent one.
To place the permanent bridge, the dentist will use dental cement to first anchor the crowns. The dentist will also secure the pontic or pontics to the gum tissue to prevent bacterial inclusion.
If the patient needs dental implants for a successful dental bridge, the procedure is more invasive. The dentist will first take x-rays to determine the jaw’s bone density and the placement of the implant posts.
The dentist will then numb the patient’s gums and jaw. After incisions are made, the dentist will implant posts into the patient’s jawbone. Stitches will close the incision and then the wounds must have time to heal, at least four to six months.
Once the dental implants are placed, the dentist can then apply the dental bridge to the implants acting as abutment teeth just like with natural teeth.
Dental Bridge Care
Once you have dental bridges in place, you must care for your teeth like you normally would. Your oral health will continue to be important to ensure the longevity of the dental bridge. When bridges are cared for properly they can last up to 15 years before potentially needing to be replaced. That means flossing regularly, brushing at least twice a day, and returning to the dentist for regular cleanings and checkups. Your oral care should never be an afterthought!
To keep your teeth looking uniform, we also offer whitening services. That way the rest of your natural teeth will stay the same shade as your new dental bridge and crowns!
Cost of Dental Bridges
The cost of a dental bridge depends on the type of material used and how many pontics, artificial teeth, are needed to fill the gap. Furthermore, certain bridges may involve a more invasive procedure such as dental implants which will cost more. On average, a pontic can cost from $500 to $1,500.
The cost of a dental bridge will also depend on your insurance coverage. If you would rather forego the insurance process or if you don’t have dental insurance, we offer dental savings plans at Brunelli Dental Partners. Our savings plans don’t require deductibles, forms, pre-existing condition limitations, or yearly maximums. Our savings plan can help you save up to 15% on crowns and bridges.
Brunelli Dental Partners
Our dentists are well-versed with crown and dental bridge placement. Paired with skill and compassion, Brunelli Dental Partners is the best option for dental procedures in Reno and Sparks. The dental care you receive at our clinic is unmatched. Come see why we have a five-star rating and let us take care of your dental health!
Ready to restore your smile?