There is one primary factor to consider when asking why get a dental bridge: Missing teeth. Shockingly, a study estimates that 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth, and about 40 million Americans are missing all of their teeth. So what are dental bridges for? A dentist essentially bridges the gap where one or more natural teeth are missing. Replacing missing teeth not only will restore your smile, but it offers many dental health benefits.
What is a Dental Bridge?
A dental bridge fills in the gap created by one or more missing teeth. A false tooth, called a pontic, is used to replace the missing tooth. The false tooth is usually made of gold, alloys, porcelain, or a combination of these materials. The false tooth is held in place by the existing teeth on either side of the gap, usually using dental crowns. The remaining adjacent teeth are called abutment teeth.
Placing a dental bridge is not usually a surgical procedure, so the patient can be awake during the treatment. The first step is for the dentist to take an impression of the teeth. The imprints and measurements serve as a model for the custom-made bridge or framework, false tooth, and the dental crowns. The dentist may place a temporary piece for the patient while the bridge is made. During the procedure, the dentist will remove the temporary piece, apply the cement, and place the permanent bridge or framework.
Depending on the type of bridge, multiple dentist visits might be required to check the fit of the bridge and the effect on the patient’s bite. On the plus side, minimal pain comes with this procedure. A local, mild anesthetic is used to remove any sharp pain. However, leaving the mouth open for up to several hours during the procedure can result in some discomfort.
Causes of Missing Teeth
To understand what dental bridges are used for, it is important to first understand why teeth are missing in the first place. Here are some of the most common causes of missing teeth:
- Accidents. Bike, car, and other vehicle accidents often result in missing teeth. Sports injuries can knock the teeth loose, especially when the blow is directed to the face or head. Fights, falls, and collisions can also do the job if the incident is serious enough.
- Tooth decay and gum disease. When teeth are not taken care of properly, tooth decay or gum disease might develop. Untreated tooth decay simply means the tooth dies and falls out. Untreated gum disease allows the bacterial infection to loosen the gums surrounding the teeth, leading the same end result.
- Genetics. A condition called congenitally missing teeth is when someone is born without certain teeth. Hypodontia is when six or fewer permanent teeth fail to develop. Another common genetic defect causing missing teeth is called ectodermal dysplasia.
Regardless of what caused the missing teeth, it is important to see a dentist and resolve the issue. A dental bridge is a great way to replace the missing teeth.
Benefits of a Dental Bridge
A dental bridge offers many benefits when it comes to the harms of missing teeth. People most often get dental bridges because they can:
- Restore the smile. Missing teeth might bring emotional consequences. Replacing the missing teeth can help patients feel more confident in their smile.
- Restore the ability to properly chew. The simple task of eating can become very difficult when teeth are missing. Teeth in the front of the mouth help to bite off pieces of food, and teeth in the back of the mouth help to grind the food down. Chewing can become quite problematic without teeth.
- Restore the ability to properly speak. Missing teeth can cause slurring, whistling, or spitting when speaking. Without teeth, pronunciation might be more difficult.
- Maintain the shape of your face. Missing teeth can cause the skin around the mouth to sag because the skin is not supported properly. This often makes the face appear aged and wrinkled.
- Distribute the forces in your bite. An improper bite, or when the teeth do not align correctly, can cause a variety of pain. Some side effects are headaches, neck or muscle pain, wear and tear of the teeth, tooth sensitivity or loss, and jaw muscle or joint problems.
- Prevent remaining teeth from drifting. The gap created by missing teeth allows for extra room in the mouth for remaining teeth to shift. This leads to a crooked smile and an uneven bite.
- Protect the jaw bone. Teeth help stimulate the jaw bone, so when teeth are missing the result might be jaw bone loss. Jaw bone that is not being used can be wasted away.
Types of Dental Bridges
There are many different types of dental bridges. A dentist will be able to determine which option is best for you. The type of bridge a dentist recommends will depend on why you need one, and what condition the remaining teeth are in. Some of the most common dental bridges are:
Traditional bridges. Traditional dental bridges are the most popular type, and are used when there are natural teeth still remaining on both sides of the gap. The false tooth is held into place by dental crowns.
Cantilever bridges. Cantilever bridges are used when there is a remaining natural tooth on only one side of the gap. Like traditional bridges, the false tooth is held into place by a dental crown that is cemented to the one adjacent tooth. This method is much less common.
Maryland bridges. A Maryland bridge requires natural teeth on both sides of the gap. However, instead of using dental crowns to cement the false tooth, this method uses a framework that is bonded onto the backs of the adjacent teeth. The framework is usually made of metal or porcelain.
Implant-supported bridges. Instead of using crowns or framework, this method uses dental implants. Usually for every missing tooth, an implant is surgically placed. The implants hold the bridge in position. This method is considered the strongest and most durable, but it often requires multiple procedures and months to finish the job.
What to Expect in Terms of Cost and Maintenance
There are a variety of factors that affect the cost of dental bridges. First and foremost, cost depends on the dentist provider, the geographic location, and what percentage insurance will cover. More specifically, the cost will vary depending on what type of dental bridge is used, and how many missing teeth need to be replaced. The materials and process by which the bridge is made, and how complex it is to place the bridge also has an impact on cost. After considering all of these factors, the price range of a dental bridge is usually anywhere between $1,500 and $15,000.
A dental bridge can normally last for 5 to 15 years. However, for the best results, it is important to practice proper oral care after the procedure. Good news is the recovery process after the treatment is slim to none, and the after care is relatively standard. Always brush the teeth twice a day and floss daily. It is important to clean between the teeth, especially under the bridge. It is also a good idea to see a dentist regularly not only to clean the teeth, but to check in on the status of the bridge. Finally, maintaining a healthy diet will ensure the quality of the teeth and the bridge.
Find a Dentist Near You
No one should have to live with an incomplete smile. A dental bridge is a great option to explore to help restore the physical and emotional health concerns that come with missing teeth. To find a dentist in your area that can help determine whether or not you need a bridge, use our online search tool.