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What are Dental Bridges?

What are Dental Bridges?

Dental bridges are used to restore one or more missing teeth for aesthetic and functional purposes. A dental bridge is typically compromised of three units. The two end pieces are dental crowns that suspend a pontic at the site of the missing tooth. They are fit over the adjacent teeth after they have been prepared by removing tooth enamel. The entire restoration is cast from a single piece to ensure high durability.

Why Replace Lost Teeth?

Posterior tooth loss can impair masticatory (chewing) function by placing undue stress on your front teeth. This, in return, can lead to accelerated tooth deterioration and temporomandibular joint disorder. Unless quickly treated, missing teeth can cause bone resorption making the placement of dental bridges and/or implants more challenging.

Is A Dental Bridge for Me?

You should ask yourself these questions before pursuing treatment with dental bridges:

How much am I willing to spend? – If money is no object, dental implants are preferred for their superior strength, life longevity, and conservative placement. Dental implants are a large upfront investment, but the cost of upkeeping dental bridges will outpace the cost of implants in a person’s lifetime.

Are you willing to compromise otherwise healthy teeth? – The placement of a dental bridge results in trauma to the teeth anchoring the appliance. These teeth will sustain additional trauma once the bridge has to be replaced and will be more susceptible to decay potentially leading to root canal therapy. There are conservative dental bridges, specifically the bonded bridge. This requires minimal preparation on the lingual (back) surface of the teeth and is a good temporary option for a patient waiting to get implants. These are common for replacing anterior teeth following orthodontic treatment.

How is my oral hygiene? – Dental bridges require strict upkeep when compared to implants. There is no interproximal space between the teeth on the bridge, which means you will have to use a floss threader to get under the bridge.

How are Dental Bridges Outfitted?

A patient is outfitted with a dental bridge much in the same way as a crown. The dentist must first verify that the adjacent anchoring teeth and gums are healthy. Placement of bridges can exacerbate existing periodontal problems, moreso if the patient fails to practice adequate oral hygiene. Gum disease, tooth decay, and bone deterioration are all potential risk factors.

After the patient is anesthetized, the abutment teeth are reshaped and an impression is taken. A temporary bridge is then outfitted on the area and the impressions are sent to the dental lab.

What are Dental Bridges Made of?

Dental bridges are often made from an alloy of high noble metals, porcelain, or a combination of the two. Highly noble alloys are ideal for dental work due to their non-reactive nature. This is an important consideration in the mouth where factors like moisture are present. These alloys can be composed of gold, silver, palladium, etc. These materials cannot be used alone in the fabrication of dental bridges due to their expense and limitations. Gold, for instance, is much too soft to withstand the forces present in the mouth.

Porcelain-fused-to-metal or PFM bridges give patients the best of both worlds. The core of the bridge consists of a highly noble alloy while the outer shell is crafted of porcelain. These bridges are strong enough to be used in the posterior (rear) area of the mouth without compromising aesthetics. While PFM bridges offer a superior tooth-like quality when compared to all metal bridges, they fall short of all porcelain bridges. The all metal core affects the translucency of the porcelain making it less ideal for the front teeth. Furthermore, integrating these bridges with the gumline can be a challenge. Most often, there is a dark outline present along the gingival margin. This affect can worsen with gingival recession.

Porcelain bridges are best suited for the anterior (front) teeth. Here they are less susceptible to breakage due to occlusal (biting) forces. Porcelain bridges are prone to chipping and fracturing but their aesthetic quality may supplant this risk.

How Does the Lab Create Them?

The dental lab fabricating your bridge will rely on the impressions taken at your dentist’s office for guidance. In the lab, the metal type is poured into clay casts made of the impression. This is cooled and then removed from the clay. It looks good at this point but still needs finishing work. At this point, it is sandblasted in a controlled area to smooth out imperfections and round out the edges. Then the piece is transferred to a person that paints on a textured material that the enamel can adhere to. First this sandy material is put on in two coats and baked in a small oven. Then after cooling another person skillfully shapes the enamel into the correct tooth structures. Then it is cooled, polished, and checked. It is a true art form that most people do not even think about.

How Long Do Dental Bridges Last?

A good dental bridge can last a person’s lifetime. At the very minimum it will be there for at least twenty years. A few things that could shorten a bridge’s life longevity include gum disease and a poorly fitted bridge. It is very important to make sure that the fit is correct on a dental bridge. Any gap along the edges of the gum line will let bacteria and moisture leak in and provide a place for dental decay to advance. Good dental hygiene is essential around dental bridges and crowns.

How Do Bridges Compare to Implants?

A comparison of dental bridges to implants is warranted. An implant is ideal in circumstances where the bone is solid and the gums are firm. An implant is a single unit fixed crown with an attached root post that acts like the natural tooth. But implants cannot be used in imperfect situations like missing or soft bone structure. And for that reason it is pretty certain that dental bridges will still be used for many years to come.

Other factors that can play into a patient’s decision include:

Speed of treatment – Treatment with implants can take six months or more to complete. Bridgework can be completed in a matter of weeks.

Invasiveness – Implants are considered far less invasive than bridgework due to lack of need for tooth preparation.

Budget – An implant and crown can cost far more than a bridge.

The patient needs to communicate their specific needs with their provider to determine the best treatment approach.

How Much Do Dental Bridges Cost?

The cost of dental bridges is affected by the type of bridge chosen (conventional, bonded, etc.), material choice, as well as the number of teeth it is intended to replace. Expect to pay a minimum of $500 for a basic single unit bridge.

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