What is a dental bridge?

A dental bridge is a fixed appliance used to replace one or more missing teeth. It is cemented into place and can't be removed by the person.

How is a dental bridge constructed?

As the name implies, the bridge is made out of 3 (or more) pieces fused together that fit into the open space in the mouth, "bridging" the gap. Most bridges are made of a false tooth or teeth called pontics. They are held together by 2 crowns or “caps” that fit over the natural teeth on both sides of the space. Crowns cover and support teeth, and look similar to the teeth’s their normal size and shape. These 3 pieces are then cemented to the support teeth on each side of the gap. In some cases, a bridge may be supported by dental implants rather than natural teeth.

Who is a candidate for bridges?

Many people who have one or more missing teeth are candidates for a dental bridge. The teeth that will support the bridge must be in good health and have good bone support. But the difference between correct and incorrect oral hygiene is an important factor in the success of the dental bridge.

What are the different types of dental bridges?

There are several different types of dental bridges. Your dentist or oral health specialist will recommend the one that's best for your mouth condition and the location of the missing tooth or teeth.

  • Traditional bridge. As described above, this bridge is made up of a false tooth held together by 2 crowns. The 3 pieces are then cemented to the surrounding teeth on each side of the gap.

  • Resin-bonded bridge or Maryland type bridge. The false teeth are bonded to the back of the teeth on both sides of the gap with metal or porcelain wings to span the gap. This procedure is common when the teeth missing are in the front of the mouth. This is a conservative approach. But it has a higher failure rate than traditional bridges.

  • Cantilever bridge. This type of procedure is only appropriate when there is only one tooth to act as support for the tooth being replaced. It is not as strong as a traditional bridge since it is only supported by a natural tooth on one side. This one-sided support sets up a "lever" effect. This can weaken the supporting tooth over time. This type of bridge will have a higher success rate when placed with the false tooth in a more front position in the mouth than the supporting tooth. It is also advisable to have cantilever type bridges in the front of the mouth, rather than the back. That is because biting compression forces are greater in the back of the mouth.

Oral health care and bridges

The following recommendations will help to eliminate, or reduce, any oral health problems while your teeth are restored with a bridge:

  • Brush your teeth carefully after every meal with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. This helps to prevent tooth decay and remove any food lodged in the bridge or gums. These may lead to further problems resulting in the loss of the bridge.

  • Floss daily. Your dentist, or other oral health specialist, may recommend using a floss threader to carry floss under the false tooth so that it and the supporting teeth can be cleaned.

  • Have your teeth cleaned every 6 months by an oral health professional.

  • Limit your sugar and starch intake. Debris left behind from these types of foods may turn into damaging acids, which can cause cavities.

  • Don't eat hard and sticky snacks. This includes foods such as popcorn kernels, hard or chewy candy, caramel, ice chips, and nuts.

Most bridges last more than 10 years with the correct care.