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What is a Dental Bridge & When is it Needed?

Dental bridges replace missing teeth with false teeth. Bridges are fixed to the natural teeth on either side of the gap left by the missing teeth. Dental bridges are made from different materials, including porcelain or metal. Sometimes they are produced from a mixture of the two. 

You may be a good candidate for dental bridges if you have a missing tooth or teeth and have healthy, natural teeth remaining on either side of the gap(s).


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If you have missing teeth, nearby teeth can grow into the empty space. The surrounding teeth in your opposite jaw can also shift up or down towards the space. 

This movement can lead to:

  • Bite issues
  • Chewing problems
  • Pain from the additional stress on your teeth and jaw
  • Self-consciousness about the way you look or your smile

Dental bridges can be an excellent alternative to dentures. If you are unsure whether dental bridges are right for you, speak to your dentist for medical advice.

Types of Dental Bridges

There are four main types of dental bridges:

Traditional Bridge

Traditional dental bridges are the most common. They have two or more crowns and a filler tooth or teeth that connect. The crowns ensure the bridge remains in place.

Traditional bridges are produced from metal, porcelain fused to metal or ceramics.

dental bridge with crowns in upper jaw

Cantilever Bridge

In a cantilever bridge, the pontic connects to just one abutment tooth. This bridge type is a good option for people who have teeth on one side of the gap. They can usually only hold a single fake tooth because it is not as strong as a traditional bridge.

dental cantilever bridge and healthy tooth in gums

Maryland Dental Bridge

The Maryland dental bridge is otherwise known as a resin-bonded bridge. This bridge is suitable for people with missing front teeth. It is created from porcelain fused to metal or ceramic teeth, and a framework supports it. There are wings on each side of the bridge that bond to your natural teeth.

teeth with dental maryland bridge

Implant-Supported Bridge

The implant-supported bridge is similar to the traditional fixed bridge. However, instead of being cemented in place to your teeth, it fits in place with dental implants.

jaw and implants with dental bridge

Cost of Dental Bridges Without Insurance

Many variables affect the price of dental bridges in cosmetic dentistry.

These variables include:

  • Number of teeth required to fill the gap
  • Materials used
  • Complexity or difficulty of the placement 
  • Extra treatments for other dental issues, like gum disease 
  • Geographic location
  • Type of bridge selected 
  • Dental insurance plan coverage

Traditional or cantilever bridges usually cost between $2,000 and $5,000 for one pontic and dental crowns for every abutment tooth.

Maryland bridges cost approximately $1,500 to $2,500 for one pontic with the wings or framework attached to the abutment teeth.

An implant-supported bridge costs between $5,000 and $15,000 for a bridge with two dental implants spanning three or four teeth.

Cost of Dental Bridges With Insurance

Dental insurance may cover up to 50 percent of a bridge's final cost, up to an annual maximum of $1,000 to $2,000. However, always read your dental insurance policy carefully. Some providers have sections that state that the patient must use the plan for a certain amount of time before receiving dental bridge treatment. Typically, this may be around two years.

Missing teeth can significantly harm oral health and adversely affect an individual’s dental function. This is why dental insurance either fully or partially covers the cost of a dental bridge. 

However, some dental insurance companies only cover the essential dental bridge treatment, and patients must pay any additional costs by themselves. For example, insurance may only cover a restoration that is porcelain or crown-supported. If a zirconia or implant-supported dental bridge procedure is required, then the patient must pay these extra costs themselves.

At most dental care clinics, administrative staff help patients file their entitlements and receive the complete coverage they are eligible for.

Other Ways to Pay for Dental Bridges

There are other ways to pay for dental bridges:

Discount Dental Plan

A discount dental plan is otherwise known as a dental savings plan. These plans are an affordable and flexible alternative to traditional dental health insurance. If you join a discount dental plan, you can receive discounts towards dental treatment. Members can expect to save between ten to 60 percent on dental care. 

After you join a discount dental plan, you receive access to a network of dentists. These dentists offer discounted dental rates to plan members. After receiving dental care, you pay the discounted rate directly to the dentist.

Payment Plans

Another option is to set up a formal dental payment plan with a third-party finance company. Many dentists have agreed to arrangements with a specific healthcare financing company, but you may be able to organize your finance separately.

Dental work payment plans are different from dental discount plans and are not a type of insurance. Payment plans offer a way to spread your treatment cost over a timeframe to make it more affordable. Patients borrow the money required for treatment and pay off the procedure monthly like using a credit card.

Payment plans are especially useful when a dental procedure is costly.

Dental Schools 

Dental schools can provide high-quality and reduced-cost dental treatment. Most dental school teaching facilities have dental laboratories and clinics that enable dental students to experience treating patients while delivering affordable care.

Expert and licensed dentists closely supervise the students during treatment. Post-graduate and faculty dental labs and clinics are also available at most schools.

Government Programs 

Three important federally-funded programs can help reduce dental bridge costs.

Medicare is a health insurance program for 65 and older individuals or people with certain disabilities. However, medicare dental coverage is limited, and it may not cover bridges.

Medicaid is a state-run program that sometimes offers dental benefits to those eligible. States set their own rules for who is qualified and what dental services are covered. For most people under 21, dental services are provided by Medicaid.

The Children’s Health Program (CHIP) offers dental services to most eligible children for treatment. Dental services differ from state to state.

Donated Dental Services (DDS)

The Donated Dental Services (DDS) program offers complimentary and high-quality dental treatment to the United States’ most vulnerable people. These groups include people with disabilities, the elderly, and medically vulnerable patients.

People who receive treatment from the DDS cannot afford the right treatment and are not eligible for public aid. The program is run by a network of 15,000 dentists and 3,500 dental labs across the country.

Resources

Dental bridge procedure, Health Direct, January 2019, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dental-bridge-procedure 

Sharma, Ashu et al., Assessment of various factors for feasibility of fixed cantilever bridge: a review study., ISRN dentistry vol. 2012 (2012), https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3313584/ 

Where can I find low-cost dental care?, United States Department of Health and Human Services, September 2017, https://www.hhs.gov/answers/health-insurance-reform/where-can-i-find-low-cost-dental-care/index.html 

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Updated on: January 20, 2021
Author
Ellie Swain
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Medically Reviewed
erica medical reviewer
Dr. Erica Anand
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