Think you might need a dental bridge? It’s one of the most common dental procedures for replacing a missing tooth. It’s an excellent solution that should last you many years if you maintain it properly.
Missing teeth can lead to many problems, including bone shrinkage (which affects the face and jaw structure), teeth shifting, difficulty chewing and speaking, and poor self-confidence.
So it’s crucial to replace a missing tooth as soon as possible.
I’ll discuss the cost, uses, procedure, and alternatives of dental bridges so you can find out if this treatment is right for you.
What is a dental bridge?
A dental bridge is a restoration replacing a missing tooth or teeth, anchored by “abutment” teeth on either side.
It’s basically comprised of crowns on either side of a missing tooth or teeth, connected to an artificial tooth or teeth.
The crowns (abutments) serve as the support and the false tooth/teeth (called the “pontic”) are secured between them. The bridge is made to look like your natural teeth and also requires the same kind of oral hygiene care to maintain.
Dental bridges are made of various types of materials, including metals, ceramic, zirconia, and porcelain.
The type of material used will be based on the location of the bridge and your specific needs.
What does a dental bridge look like?
A dental bridge is made to look like your natural teeth. And you can choose what type of material based on cost and your needs.
Do I need a dental bridge?
A dental bridge may be needed in several types of cases.
Whether you lost a tooth due to gum disease, decay, infection, or injury, you will have to replace it for your long-term oral health.
Leaving a hole in the mouth can lead to significant shifting of your teeth and bone as the bone around the hole continues to shrink. This can cause distortions in your face and jaw structure, as well as difficulty chewing and speaking.
The gold standard for replacing a missing tooth is a dental implant, which can be very expensive. Your second-best option is a dental bridge.
However, a bridge is a treatment option only when the missing tooth has strong and healthy adjacent teeth to serve as the anchors.
Types of dental bridges
A traditional dental bridge is the most popular type of dental bridge. The pontic is supported by the crowns (which serve as the abutments) on either side of the space.
This type of restoration is very durable and long-lasting as long as you take good care of it. That means practicing good oral hygiene, which includes flossing under the bridge (more on this topic later).
Something to consider is the disadvantage of having to shave down the adjacent teeth to place the crowns.
However, if those adjacent teeth already have decay and need crowns, this is a great option that kills two birds with one stone.
But if the adjacent teeth are healthy and free of decay, a dental implant is the more ideal option for replacing a missing tooth. That way, you don’t have to crown the adjacent teeth.
An implant-suppoted bridge is almost the same thing a traditional bridge. The only difference is that the abutments (supporting teeth) are dental implants.
This is a great treatment option if you’re missing multiple teeth. And it eliminates the need to shave down natural teeth to place crowns on them.
This is a very durable and long-lasting restoration but will require surgery to place the implants and a longer healing time between the implant placement and final restoration.
Implant cost & insurance coverage
Dental implant prices vary, depending on:
- The number of pontics (false teeth) required
- The materials (ceramics and metals) used in the restoration
- The complexity of your case
- Additional treatments needed, such as gum disease or tooth decay
A traditional bridge can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 if only one pontic and a crown on each neighboring tooth is required.
An implant-supported bridge can have a wide range of pricing and depends on the number of teeth to replace.
Depending on the number of implants and ponitcs needed, this can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000.
Your dental insurance may cover up to 50% of costs for your bridge, which depends on your specific provider.
Some insurances may only cover up to a maximum number, regardless of the cost of your bridge work.
Don’t have dental insurance? Not a problem! Take advantage of our Thrive Dental Discount Plan, which offers our dental services at a significant discount for a yearly membership fee of only $149.
We believe everyone deserves excellent dental care and that it should be affordable.
And check out our blog post about how to choose the best dental insurance.
Alternatives to dental bridges
Your dentist will advise you on what type of dental treatment is best for you based on your specific needs and your medical history.
Here are common alternatives to dental bridges to consider.
Bridge vs. Implant
In a case where only one tooth is missing, an implant is usually the best way to go.
The cost of a single implant is similar to the cost of a traditional bridge.
But be sure to consider the the following when choosing between the two:
1. Bridge work doesn’t require surgery and additional healing time like implants do.
2. However, a dental implant can be an investment that lasts a lifetime (with the proper care).
3. Implants help prevent shrinking of the jawbone, which leads to bone loss and gum issues from a missing tooth.
4. You must have enough strong, healthy bone and good periodontal (gum) health to be a candidate for implants.
Bridge vs. Crown
Crowns are used to treat different types of problems than bridges.
If a tooth is able to be saved after damage by decay or trauma, a crown can be placed over the tooth (like a cap) to restore and strengthen it. A crown can cost anywhere from $600-$1,500.
It is always best to save your tooth if possible.
Bridges, on the other hand, replace missing teeth. They are more expensive than crowns and require removing enamel on the adjacent teeth.
Bridges vs. Partial dentures
A partial denture is a removable prosthesis of false teeth (made of plastic and metal) that fits into the space of missing teeth. Although it’s a more cost-effective option, it comes with its own potential problems.
- A partial denture is cheaper than a dental bridge.
- A partial denture can replace multiple missing teeth with one appliance.
- Partial dentures can put stress on the adjacent teeth.
- A partial denture is only possible if the adjacent teeth are strong enough to support it.
- The partial denture process can take several months because it requires multiple visits and try-ins and multiple send-offs to the dental lab for fabrication.
- Your gum tissues may become sore and irritated from wearing the partial denture and may require multiple adjustments.
- You must remove your partial denture every night to sleep, and you have to clean it daily.
Advantages & disadvantages of dental bridges
There are many benefits of replacing a dental bridge, including:
- A dental bridge helps you eat, talk, and smile again.
- It’s cost-effective solution if you can’t afford implants.
- A dental bridge helps prevent shifting of the teeth and bite from a missing tooth.
- The bridge process is quicker and less invasive than an implant.
However, there are some disadvantages of dental bridges:
- The adjacent teeth have to be shaved down to support the bridge.
- It can be difficult to floss with a bridge. If you don’t floss adequately under and around the bridge, you can develop tooth decay and gum disease.
- If the bridge is faulty or poorly fitted, plaque and bacteria can build up underneath and decay the abutment teeth and surrounding teeth.
Dental bridge procedure: what to expect
You might be wondering what to expect for a big procedure like a dental bridge.
Here’s what you need to know.
Before the bridge
You may need a tooth extraction before your dental bridge is placed. And you may have to wait several weeks or months to let the extraction site fully heal before your dentist can place the bridge.
This is important for proper fit and aesthetics. If the bridge is placed too soon, the bone shrinkage under the pontic can create an unsightly gap.
Once you and your dentist decide on a dental bridge, you will go to your first visit. At this visit, your dentist will prepare the abutment teeth for crowns by removing a layer of enamel.
The impressions of the teeth will be taken and sent off to the dental lab for fabrication.
Before dismissing you, your dentist will make you a temporary dental bridge to protect the prepared teeth until the next visit.
It’s very important to take good care of your temporary bridge and to keep it clean and free of debri and bacteria.
Bridge seat visit
Once your custom bridge is ready, you’ll come in for your second visit.
At this time, the temporary bridge will be removed, and the fit of the permanent one will be checked. Your dentist may need to make a few adjustments for a perfect fit.
Once the fit and seating of the bridge is verified, your dentist will cement your bridge into place.
Then they will check your bite, remove any debri or excess cement, and polish.
Your bridge should last you for years as long as you clean and care for it properly.
How long do dental bridges last?
Dental bridges should last 10-15 years with proper care and oral hygiene.
Proper care for dental bridges
How long your bridge lasts depends on your oral hygiene care and regular dental checkups and cleanings (at least every six months).
A dental bridge requires extra care in cleaning and flossing under and around the bridge, where plaque, tartar, and bacteria can accumulate and cause gum disease.
Your dental hygienist can show you to clean your bridge and review oral hygiene care instrutions with you.
It might seem tricky at first, but not to worry. Soon, you’ll get the hang of it, and it’ll become second nature!
Bridges are typically made of porcelain, ceramic, and/or metal.
If you’re concerned about having metal in your mouth, I recommend ceramic options.
Although a dental implant is my first choice in replacing a missing tooth, a bridge is also an excellent choice. A bridge is more cost-effective and time-saving option as long a the adjacent teeth are healthy.
They help prevent bone loss, shifting of teeth, and disintegration of the jaw and facial bone structure. They also allow you to chew, speak, and smile again.
The main types of dental bridges are traditional and implant-supported bridges.
Depending on the type of bridge and the treatment needed, a bridge can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $15,000.
Have any questions about if a dental bridge is right for you? Come in anytime so we can answer those questions for you!
by Dr. Christine Coughlin DDS