Dental bridges replace missing teeth. They can restore chewing function, enhance your appearance and improve your oral health. A dental bridge consists of crowns (that fit over your natural teeth on either side of the space) and artificial teeth (that “bridge the gap” in your smile).
Dental bridges replace missing teeth. Specifically, they can replace one tooth or a row of missing teeth.
As the name implies, this appliance literally “bridges the gap” in your smile. Dentists can create custom bridges that match the shade of your natural teeth.
There are different parts that make up a dental bridge:
Depending on your situation and the type of bridge you receive, your bridge might consist of one or more abutments and one or more pontics.
Dentists use different types of bridges based on your oral health goals. The main four types of dental bridges include:
To determine what type of bridge you need, a dentist will consider several factors, including:
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It depends on what type of dental bridge you receive:
To place a traditional or cantilever bridge, your dentist will:
During a second office visit (once your final bridge is ready), your dentist will:
Some dentists use CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) technology to create custom bridges in their office during the same appointment. Ask your dentist if this is a possibility for you.
To place a Maryland bridge, your dentist will:
Once your final bridge is ready, your dentist will schedule a second office visit. During this appointment, they’ll:
An implant-supported bridge requires several office visits, including one surgery appointment.
During the first appointment, a dentist, periodontist or oral surgeon will:
After surgery, your implants will need to heal and fuse to your jawbone (a process known as osseointegration). This process takes three to six months on average, but it could take longer depending on your situation.
Once your dental implants have integrated (fused), your dentist will:
Once your final implant-supported bridge is ready, your dentist will:
Because dental implants take a few months to integrate (fuse) with your jaw, implant-supported bridges take longer than other types of bridges.
Dental bridges offer many benefits. But there are some drawbacks, too:
Advantages of dental bridges
Dental bridges can:
Disadvantages of dental bridges
Dental bridges also have some drawbacks:
Recovery times vary from person to person and depend on several factors. On average, it takes one to two weeks for your teeth and gums to heal. But it can take a little longer for your new dental bridge to feel totally natural and comfortable.
On average, the lifespan of a dental bridge is five to 15 years. Some can last even longer with proper care and maintenance.
You may hear dentists call these “permanent bridges.” They’re permanent in the sense that only a dentist can remove them. But they don’t last forever. You’ll still need to replace them when they show signs of wear or damage.
Caring for a dental bridge is similar to caring for your natural teeth. To keep your bridge in good condition:
In general, dental implants last much longer than bridges. Implants also preserve existing bone and reduce the risk of bone loss in the future.
However, everyone has unique oral health needs, goals and preferences. To determine which treatment option is best for you, talk to your dentist.
Most dentists don’t place dental bridges in people younger than 17 or 18, but there are exceptions. For example, a dentist may place a Maryland bridge if a child loses a permanent tooth. Even then, other options may work better, such as a temporary partial denture (sometimes called a “flipper”).
Most commonly, a dental bridge replaces one to three teeth in a row. In some cases, a bridge can replace up to four consecutive teeth. But keep in mind, longer bridges usually require more support. So, to replace four missing teeth with a bridge, you need healthy natural teeth on both sides of the gap.
To learn more about your teeth replacement options, talk to a dentist.
In general, you should replace missing teeth as soon as possible to prevent other teeth from shifting into the gap. However, if you need tooth extraction first, you might have to wait a few months before getting your dental bridge. This gives your gums and underlying bone time to heal.
Getting a dental bridge shouldn’t hurt. Your dentist will give you local anesthesia to numb your gums before beginning your procedure.
It can take some time to get used to your new dental bridge. But once you do, it should feel similar to your natural teeth. It’s like wearing a new ring on your finger. You’re aware of it for a while, but you eventually grow accustomed to it.
It depends. If your bridge is already loose, it’s usually easy to remove. Your dentist can often recement it with no issue. But if you need to have your bridge removed for another reason — like treating gum disease or underlying tooth decay — your bridge may break during the removal process. If this happens, you’ll need a new dental bridge.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Missing teeth leave a gap in your smile and can hinder your ability to chew and speak properly. If you’re missing one to four teeth in a row, a dental bridge could be an option for you. Bridges are typically more comfortable than partial dentures and more affordable than dental implants. If you’re missing teeth, talk to your dentist about replacement options. They can help you find a solution that fits your needs, budget and preferences.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/24/2023.
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