What is a dental bridge?
A dental bridge is a fixed device that replaces one or more missing teeth. Missing teeth can affect your ability to chew and talk and change the alignment of the teeth and shape of your face. Dental bridges prevent these problems by filling the gap in your smile with an artificial tooth attached to a permanent dental implant or the natural teeth next to it.
A dental bridge can be made of metal, porcelain or ceramic material, or a metal base with a porcelain or ceramic coating. A dental bridge is a permanent or fixed device. You cannot take it out of your mouth without help from your dentist.
Placing a dental bridge is generally considered safe, but there are risks and potential complications A dental bridge is only one method used to replace missing teeth. Discuss all your treatment options with your dentist to understand which options are right for you.
Types of dental bridges
All types of dental bridges fill a space left by one or more missing teeth with an artificial tooth. The types of dental bridges that your dentist may use include:
Traditional bridges consist of an artificial tooth attached to two or more crowns. A dental crown is a fixed device that covers a tooth with a tooth-shaped cap. The crowns are placed over the teeth on both sides of the gap to support the artificial tooth.
Cantilever bridges consist of an artificial tooth attached to one or more crowns on one side of the missing tooth. A dental crown is a fixed device that covers a tooth with a tooth-shaped cap. Cantilever bridges replace a missing tooth that has teeth on only one side of it.
Maryland bridges consist of an artificial tooth that is bonded or cemented to natural teeth on either side of it with small metal or ceramic attachments. These attachments are shaped like wings. Maryland bridges are sometimes called Maryland bonded bridges, resin bonded bridges, or Encore bridges. Maryland bridges are typically used for front teeth because they create a more natural appearance. They are not as strong as other bridges and are not suited to replace teeth that do a lot of hard biting or chewing.
Why is a dental bridge procedure performed?
Your dentist may recommend a dental bridge to fill in the space made by one or more missing teeth. A tooth may become missing due to a mouth injury, damage to a tooth, or serious tooth decay.
If you leave a space where a tooth used to be, the other teeth around it may shift. This could lead to biting and chewing problems. Missing teeth can also affect your speech and change the shape of your face. A dental bridge helps prevent these problems after you lose a tooth.
Who performs a dental bridge procedure?
A dentist or prosthodontist performs dental bridge procedures. A prosthodontist is a dentist with extra education and training in restoring damaged or missing teeth with crowns, bridges, and other devices.
How is a dental bridge procedure performed?
You dental bridge procedure will be performed in a dental office or clinic. Dental bridge procedures vary depending on the location or missing teeth and type of dental bridge. A traditional or cantilever bridge procedure typically includes these steps:
You will sit in a reclining position in the dentist chair and wear a clear shield over your eyes. The shield protects your eyes from spraying liquids and dental instruments.
Your dentist will inject a local anesthetic into the gums near your tooth. The anesthetic numbs the pain during the procedure. Your dentist may apply a painless topical anesthetic to numb the gums partially before the injection.
Your dentist will reshape the teeth next to your missing tooth so that the crowns can fit snugly over them. This may involve filling any hollowed-out areas of your teeth with a filling material and filing down certain parts of your teeth.
Your dentist will make a rubber mold (impression) of the space left by your missing tooth and the teeth around it. Your dentist sends the impression to a lab to make a customized bridge that fits correctly.
Your dentist will place a temporary bridge using temporary cement. You will wear the temporary bridge until your permanent bridge is ready.
You will return to the dentist’s office within a few weeks. Your dentist will remove the temporary bridge and place your permanent bridge with stronger and permanent cement.
Your dentist will examine and test the bridge for proper fit before cementing with permanent cement. This may involve grinding parts of the bridge to ensure a proper bite. You may need to return to the dentist for painless adjustments of the bridge to ensure a comfortable bite.
Will I feel pain?
Your comfort and relaxation are important to you and your care team. You may feel brief sharp pinches when your dentist injects your gums with local anesthetic. Ask your dentist if your gums can be partially numbed with a painless topical anesthetic before the injections.
You may also feel pressure as your dentist prepares your teeth to receive a bridge. Take a few long, deep breaths to help yourself relax. Tell your dentist if any discomfort does not pass quickly.
What are the risks and potential complications of a dental bridge?
Complications of a dental bridge are uncommon, but any dental procedure involves risks and the potential complications. Complications may become serious in some cases. Complications can develop during the procedure or your recovery.
Risks and potential complications of a dental bridge include:
Allergic reaction to the materials used in the false tooth or crown
Anesthetic complications, such as allergic reaction and nerve or blood vessel injury
Chipping, loosening, and loss of the bridge
Infection in the teeth that are crowned and support the bridge
Mouth or tooth injury
Sensitivity to heat and cold in the crowned teeth
Reducing your risk of complications
You can reduce the risk of certain complications by:
Following activity, dietary and lifestyle restrictions and recommendations before your bridge procedure and during recovery
Informing your dentist if you are nursing or if there is any possibility of pregnancy
Notifying your dentist immediately of any concerns after the procedure such as pain, fever, and difficulty chewing
Taking your medications exactly as directed
Telling all members of your care team if you have any allergies, especially any metal allergies if your dentist is using metal bridge material
Wearing your temporary bridge at all times until the permanent bridge is placed
How do I prepare for my dental bridge procedure?
You are an important member of your dental care team. The steps you take before your dental bridge procedure can improve your comfort and outcome.
You can prepare for a dental bridge procedure by:
Answering all questions about your medical history and medications. This includes prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, herbal treatments, and vitamins. It is a good idea to carry a current list of your medical conditions, medications, and allergies at all times.
Taking or stopping medications exactly as directed
Telling your dentist if there is any possibility of pregnancy
Questions to ask your dentist
Having a dental bridge procedure can be stressful. It is common for patients to forget some of their questions during a dentist’s office visit. You may also think of other questions after your appointment. Contact your dentist with concerns and questions before your dental bridge procedure and between appointments.