If your dentist has brought up the option of a dental bridge, you probably have a number of questions. For example, is the bridge being recommended for medical or cosmetic reasons? What other options are available to accomplish the same purpose? What will a dental bridge cost? How long is it likely to last?
We’ll be covering all those questions and more in the following article.
What is a dental bridge and what issues does it fix?
The term “dental bridge” and similar terms like bridgework, crown-and-bridge, or oral prosthesis, refer to artificial teeth created to fill a gap where one or more of your natural teeth are missing.
In most cases, the bridge includes a complete artificial tooth or teeth designed to replace whatever is missing, along with two crowns, which are tooth-shaped shells designed to fit over the natural teeth that still exist on either side of the gap. So, for example, a dental bridge that replaces one missing tooth will include three artificial teeth that will be visible in your mouth.
Why is the dental bridge being recommended?
Your dentist may recommend filling gaps in your teeth for one of two basic reasons:
Medically, gaps in your teeth can lead to difficulty chewing, an uneven bite, jaw misalignment, speech difficulties, and chronic pain in the gums, jaw muscles, and joints. At the same time, exposed gums are more prone to injury and infection, and missing teeth put additional stress on the teeth surrounding the gap.
These are all legitimate medical reasons why your dentist may be recommending a dental bridge or dental implants to replace missing teeth. However, the recommendation may also be cosmetic in nature, especially if the gap where teeth are missing is readily visible when you smile.
When money has to be a deciding factor, medical needs must necessarily be prioritized over cosmetic improvements. However, if you have the means to afford restorative services either way, there are many compelling reasons you may want to fix your smile.
What other options are available?
The two options most commonly available to fill gaps where teeth are missing are dental bridges and dental implants. The major difference between these two options is how they are installed.
As noted above, dental bridges are firmly attached to your natural teeth on either side of the gap using crowns. The natural teeth are first ground down slightly to provide plenty of room for the crowns and adhesive to fit around them. The end result should be a row of natural-looking artificial teeth that do not stand out from the rest of your natural teeth in shape, size, or color.
Dental implants are usually individual artificial teeth attached to a metal post. The post is threaded and gets secured directly into your jaw bone via minor oral surgery. Once healed, an artificial tooth made identically to the tooth that has been lost is inserted into the post.
In some cases, a hybrid option is used in which two implants are secured to the jaw bone with one or more artificial teeth between them in the form of a dental bridge. This option is generally reserved for situations where the gap is very large and/or the natural teeth on either side are not structurally sound and may not be able to support a bridge.
Your dentist may recommend implants automatically because they tend to be more durable and longer lasting. However, they are also significantly more expensive than a dental bridge. So, it pays to discuss both options in detail and determine which is best for your unique circumstances.
How long will a dental bridge last?
With proper care and caution to avoid trauma, modern dental bridges can last decades. For most adults, they can essentially last the remainder of their natural lives.
However, it’s important to note that an artificial bridge is generally going to be weaker than most people’s natural teeth under the same stress. So, for example, biting down on something hard may do little or no damage to a natural tooth, but may break or dislodge a bridge. Likewise, if trauma is serious enough to loosen a natural tooth, it’s likely enough to loosen or even break off a bridge. The longer the bridge, the more prone to breakage it’s likely to be.
Your dentist may be able to reinstall a bridge that has come dislodged, but there is no guarantee it will still be usable.
How much will a dental bridge cost?
The cost of a dental bridge varies dramatically based on what style of bridge you choose, how many teeth are being replaced, and other factors.
Cost can range from as low as $250 (standard resin-bonded bridge replacing one tooth) to as high as nearly $8,500 (implant-supported bridge replacing two teeth.) Insurance plans will often cover a portion of the cost of standard restorative bridge work. It’s important to note, however, that few dental insurance plans cover dental implants.
To save up to 50 percent on a dental bridge or implants, you may want to consider joining the Dental Solutions dental discount program.