What is a Dental Bridge?

A dental bridge is used to bridge the gap between two healthy teeth where one or more teeth are missing.

In most cases, a dental crown is placed on the healthy teeth on each side of the gap to support the bridge in between them. These teeth are known as anchor teeth or abutment teeth. The bridge essentially creates a false tooth, known as a pontic. The pontic may be constructed from various materials such as gold, alloys, porcelain or a mixture of these materials.

Illustration of a dental bridge. Image Credit: BlueRingMedia / Shutterstock
Illustration of a dental bridge. Image Credit: BlueRingMedia / Shutterstock

Indications

Bridges offer a number of benefits for individual who are missing a tooth or several teeth.

They can restore the appearance of the smile and overall face shape, also assisting to increase the confidence of the individual. It helps to hold the adjacent teeth in place and prevents them from moving to fill the gap in the jaw because of the missing tooth.

Additionally, they can improve the function of the jaw and aid with chewing and speaking in a normal way, similar to before the tooth was lost. The bridge can also help to distribute the forces of the patient’s bite that changed due to the missing teeth.

Types of Dental Bridges

There are three main types of dental bridges that may be used depending on the situation:

  • Traditional fixed bridges: two crowns on adjacent teeth to hold the bridge in place.
  • Cantilever bridges: one crown on adjacent tooth and no tooth on the other side of the bridge
  • Maryland bonded bridges: resin-bonded bridge made of porcelain fused to metal teeth and framework, commonly used for front teeth.

Procedure

Several dental visits are typically needed for the placement of a dental bridge. Firstly, the abutment teeth should be reshaped to prepare them for the placement of crowns. Impressions of the teeth can then be created, which are used to create the crowns in the correct shape to fit the teeth.

The impressions are then sent to a dental laboratory to create the crowns, which typically takes several weeks. It is for this reason that multiple dental visits are usually required. At the second dental visit, the crowns will be fitted to the teeth and fixed into place with dental cement.

Once the crowns have been fitted, the dental bridge can be placed over the gap between the two crowns. This is usually done with temporary cement initially, to test the fit of the bridge, and permanent cement can be added after several weeks of successful use.

Durability and Use

Dental bridges that have been placed correctly can last for several years. With good oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings, a dental bridge can commonly last for more than 10 years.

The success of the bridge is dependent on the strength of the healthy teeth that support it. Therefore, good dental care is essential to promote the durability of the dental bridge. Patients should be advised to brush their teeth twice a day and floss once a day. Professional dental cleanings on a regular basis can also help to improve the health of the teeth.

The dental bridge is intended to increase ease of eating and speaking, which may be difficult if teeth are missing. The bridge fills this gap so that it is similar to having the original tooth. However, patients should be advised to be careful for the bridge shortly after it has been placed as they get used to it. They may find it useful to eat softer foods or foods that have been cut into small pieces in the beginning for this reason.

Reviewed by Liji Thomas, MD.

References

Further Reading

Last Updated: Aug 17, 2017

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