Dental bridges are natural-looking tooth replacements that help maintain facial structure, reduce stress on the jaw and fill in the gaps caused by missing teeth.
A dental bridge can be used to:
- Restore an attractive smile
- Reduce the risk of gum disease
- Restore the ability to bite and chew
- Improve speech
- Prevent remaining teeth from drifting out of position
Types of Dental Bridges
There are three main types of bridges:
Also known as fixed bridges, traditional bridges are used to replace one or more missing teeth. The procedure involves creating a crown for the tooth or implant on either side of the missing tooth, with a pontic, or a false tooth, in between. Fixed bridges are the most common type of dental bridges and are either made out of porcelain fused to metal or out of ceramics.
Also known as Maryland-bonded bridges, resin-bonded bridges are primarily used for the front teeth. They are less expensive than fixed bridges and are best for use when the teeth are healthy and do not have any large fillings. During this procedure, a false tooth is fused with resin to metal bands which are then bonded to the adjacent teeth and hidden from view. Resin-bonded bridges require only minimal preparation of the adjacent teeth.
These bridges are used in areas of the mouth that are under minimal stress, such as the back teeth. Cantilever bridges are recommended when there are teeth on only one side of the open space.
The Dental Bridge Procedure
There are several steps that are taken in order to create a bridge:
The adjacent teeth must be prepared. This involves removing some of the enamel to allow room for the crown to be placed over them.
Impressions of the teeth are made. These will be sent to a laboratory so a bridge, a false tooth or pontic, and crowns can be created to fit the unique configuration of the patient’s mouth. During the 2 to 3 weeks while the bridge is being manufactured, the patient will be given a temporary dental bridge to protect the exposed teeth and gums.
During the next dental visit, the temporary bridge will be removed and replaced with the new, permanent bridge. The doctor will make sure the bridge fits properly and cement it to the teeth.
Recovery After a Dental Bridge Placement
Replacing missing teeth should make eating easier, but until they get used to the bridge, patients are advised to eat soft food cut into small pieces. For a few weeks after receiving a bridge, it is common to experience increased sensitivity to extreme temperatures. Patients will also notice a difference in their speech which will become clearer with the permanent bridge in place.
Results of a Dental Bridge Placement
With good oral hygiene, a dental bridge will last from 5 to 15 years, sometimes longer. Patients must remember to practice proper care of their teeth and gums to prevent the build-up of bacteria and formation of plaque. Regular dental visits and cleanings will still be required.
Dental Bridge vs. Dental Implant
Patients who lose a tooth can choose to replace it with a dental bridge or a dental implant. Both have unique advantages and disadvantages. Getting a dental bridge takes much less time than getting a dental implant, and it does not require surgery. However, a dental implant is situated directly in the jawbone just like a natural tooth, so lasts longer and is more stable than a bridge. A bridge does not involve minor surgery but it does alter two natural teeth. These teeth need to be covered with crowns indefinitely.
After getting a bridge or a dental implant, patients may have a short recovery period. During this time, it may be necessary to take an over-the-counter medication to reduce discomfort and soreness. It can also take up to a few weeks to get used to chewing and speaking with a new bridge, as it can with a dental implant, though there are fewer changes in the mouth with the latter treatment.
While dental bridges can be lasting and durable enough to comfortably chew most foods, this approach to tooth replacement does not address a common issue after tooth loss, bone resorption. The jawbone regenerates naturally when vibrations from chewing travel through teeth roots. Without a tooth root, a bridge does not support this function of regeneration. A dental implant acts as a new tooth root so, with that procedure, bone resorption is typically much less than it would be otherwise.
How do I care for my dental bridge?
Proper care is necessary to prolong the lifespan of a dental bridge. Daily habits that reduce the risk of bridge failure are those that prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Some tips are specific to care that prevents damage to the bridge itself.
- Brush teeth twice a day for two minutes each time.
- Use dentist-approved toothpaste that will not cause abrasions on the bridge.
- When flossing natural teeth once a day, also floss under the false tooth. A special flosser may be used to do this.
- Maintain dental checkups and cleanings every six months.
How long will my bridge last?
Dental bridges have an average lifespan of about 10 years. Some can last much longer with excellent oral care and routine checkups with a dentist. Still, over time, a bridge can fail as a result of normal wear and tear. The natural teeth that support the bridge continue to be vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease.
Can you replace a dental bridge?
Yes. Dental bridges do not last forever so many people who receive this restoration eventually consider replacement. If a bridge is no longer viable, it may be replaced with a new dental bridge or with a dental implant. The dentist can make an informed recommendation regarding which option may be suitable based on the reason for bridge failure and the condition of supporting teeth. Bone resorption may also be an issue affecting the suitability of dental implant treatment.
Are dental bridges covered by insurance?
Yes. Dental insurance typically covers a portion of the costs of dental bridge treatment. The average range is 40% to 50%. This can vary from one plan to another, though. Some insurance plans exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions. Some may require a waiting period of up to a few years before coverage applies to anything outside of preventative care. To avoid surprises, patients are advised to consult with their insurance provider to confirm their financial responsibility, including deductibles, copays and coverage maximum limits.
Porcelain dental bridges in Santa Rosa, California, can give you back a beautiful and confident smile! Our experienced dentist may recommend a dental bridge to replace a single tooth or several missing teeth in a row. Contact us today at 707-542-1532 to schedule your consultation with Dr. Darren Gonzalez and learn more about the benefits of porcelain dental bridges.