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Updated on September 27, 2022

Types of Dental Bridges & Procedure Steps

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What is a Dental Bridge?

A dental bridge is a type of dental restoration used to replace missing teeth. It fills the gap with one or more false teeth, using the surrounding teeth as support.

Also known as fixed partial dentures, dental bridges have two main parts:

  1. Abutments are the teeth that support the bridge. They may be your natural teeth or dental implants. Bridges usually have abutments on either side of the missing teeth.
  2. Pontics (from the Latin word for bridge) are false teeth that ‘bridge the gap’ between the abutments. There can be more than one pontic if you’re missing several teeth in a row.

Abutment teeth themselves are usually fitted with crowns. Crowns on abutment teeth are often referred to as retainers. They’re attached to the pontic with connectors.

Who Needs a Dental Bridge?

Your teeth share the pressure of biting and chewing and exert pressure on each other. If you have missing teeth, the teeth surrounding the gap can move over time, drifting out of place and even rotating.

Moving teeth can cause pain, difficulty chewing, bite problems, and an altered appearance. Dental bridges are intended to prevent these issues by filling in the gaps created by losing the original teeth.

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, “a missing tooth is a serious matter. If the tooth is not replaced, other teeth can drift out of position, change the bite, and possibly lead to tooth decay and gum disease.” 

Dental implants can also replace missing teeth, but not everyone is a candidate for implants. Your dentist may recommend a bridge if you:

  • Already have teeth that need crowns on what would become the abutment teeth
  • Have medical or financial reasons that prevent you from getting implants
  • Simply don’t want implants

Depending on your specific needs and preferences, your dentist can help you determine whether or not you should get a bridge. If you are a candidate for a bridge, your dentist can also help you decide what kind of bridge is best for you.

Why Do I Need a Dental Bridge?

Your teeth work together as one unit. If you are missing a tooth, another tooth may move into the opening. This can cause jaw issues and pain. 

When teeth move around in an attempt to fill the space, you may experience:

  • Difficulty chewing
  • Difficulty biting 
  • Pain due to stress on your jaw and teeth
  • Insecurities about the way your teeth look or your smile

4 Types of Dental Bridges

There are four different kinds of dental bridges. They’re mainly distinguished by how they’re attached.

1. Conventional Bridge

Conventional or traditional fixed bridges require crowns (retainers) to attach to the abutment teeth. The connectors to both retainers can be rigid (fixed-fixed), or one of them can allow some movement (fixed-movable).

Depending on your specific situation, your dentist may opt for one or the other. Fixed-fixed bridges require the abutment teeth to be parallel to each other, while fixed-movable ones allow for more deviation.

2. Cantilever Bridge

Conventional bridges can also have a cantilever design, though this is less common than it used to be. These bridges have just one abutment tooth for support rather than two.

Cantilever bridges are ideal for someone with teeth on only one side of the missing tooth or gap.

3. Maryland Bridge

An adhesive or resin-bonded bridge, also called a Maryland bridge, doesn’t require crowns on the abutment teeth. Instead, it features wings on either side of the pontic that are attached to your abutment teeth by an adhesive.

Maryland bridges are more likely to be used for front teeth. They require less preparation, but for the same reason, they may not be as secure as conventional bridges.

On the other hand, the less complex nature of an adhesive means a less invasive procedure.  

4. Implant-Supported Bridge

This type of bridge is similar to the conventional fixed bridge. The difference is that rather than retainer crowns being placed over your natural teeth, they’re placed over dental implants.

Benefits and Risks of Dental Bridges

Dental bridges offer some clear benefits, but they aren’t without risks. 

Benefits of Dental Bridges

The benefits of dental bridges include:

  • Restored function (biting and chewing)
  • Restored aesthetics
  • Maintenance of the alignment of your teeth over time 
  • You may prefer bridges over the alternatives

Risks of Dental Bridges

The drawbacks and potential complications of dental bridges include:

  • Extensive preparation of abutment teeth (for conventional bridges), which may require healthy tooth structure to be sacrificed
  • Secondary caries (tooth decay in an already treated tooth)
  • Eventual failure of the bridge and need for replacement

How Much Does a Dental Bridge Cost?

Many factors can affect the cost of a dental bridge:

  • Materials used for the dental bridge
  • Location
  • Factors that may increase the difficulty of the procedure
  • Number of teeth needed to fill the missing spaces
  • Any additional treatments

The cost of your dental bridge also depends on the type of bridge you choose: 

  • Traditional or cantilever bridges $2,000 to $5,000 for a pontic and a crown for each abutment tooth.9
  • Maryland bridges — $1,500 to $2,500 for one pontic and its framework attached to the abutment teeth.9
  • Implant-supported bridges — $5,000 to $15,000 for a bridge with two implants spanning three or four teeth.9 

How to Care for a Dental Bridge

Although they are permanent or fixed, bridges don’t last forever. They aren’t meant to be easily removable, but they will experience wear and tear over time, leading them to need replacement over one’s lifetime.

To ensure that your bridge remains in good shape for as long as possible, you’ll need to:

  • Keep a good oral hygiene regimen, including regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing
  • Take it easy with foods that are especially hard, sticky, or tough
  • See your dentist regularly for checkups and routine cleanings

Other Tooth Restoration Options 

If a bridge isn’t right for you, there are other dental restoration options available:

Like bridges, these options each have their advantages and disadvantages. Your dentist can provide information about specific options suitable for your unique situation.

Summary

Dental bridges are a type of fixed dental restoration for missing teeth. They consist of one or more pontics (false teeth) supported by abutments on one or both sides.

There are different ways that bridges can be attached, as well as other kinds of restorations. Some may suit your needs and preferences more than others. Talk to your dentist about your options.

Dental Bridges FAQs

Will I talk differently after receiving a dental bridge?

If you are missing teeth, it may be hard to speak clearly. Implementing a dental bridge may help improve your speech.

Is it hard to eat with a dental bridge?

Most people find that eating with a dental bridge is easier than eating with missing teeth. Some people prefer to consume softer foods while getting used to their new bridge.

How long will a dental bridge last?

Most dental bridges can last 5 to 7 years. However, some dental bridges can last more than 10 years with proper care.

8 Sources Cited
Last updated on September 27, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
  1. Smith, Bernard G.N. "Types of bridges." Planning and Making Crowns and Bridges, CRC Press, 2013.
  2. Zhao, Jing, and Xinzhi Wang. "Dental Prostheses." Advanced Ceramics for Dentistry, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2014.
  3. Nesbit, Samuel P. et al. "Definitive phase of treatment." Diagnosis and Treatment Planning in Dentistry, Mosby, 2017.
  4. Mine, Atsushi et al. "Critical review about two myths in fixed dental prostheses: Full-Coverage vs. Resin-Bonded, non-Cantilever vs. Cantilever." Japanese dental science review, 2021.
  5. Dăguci, C et al. “Considerations on dental bridges' stability and balance for mandibulary teeth with coronary-root amputation.” Current health sciences journal, 2012.
  6. Farish, Sam E. et al. "Dental Implant Surgery." Clinical Review of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Mosby, 2014.
  7. Brook West Family Dentistry. "What Is The Cost Of A Dental Bridge?" www.brookwestfamilydentistry.com
  8. Wake Dental Care. "How Much Does A Dental Bridge Cost?" www.wakedentalcare.com.
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