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There are many different solutions for missing teeth. One that your dentist may mention is known as a dental or tooth bridge. In fact, this is one of the most common approaches to replacing missing teeth.

So what is a tooth bridge, how does it work, and why is my dentist wanting to talk with me about this possible solution? Here is some basic information about bridges and what makes them a choice worth considering.

Why Is It Called a Bridge?

Bridges receive their names because of the function that they perform. Designed to fill in the gap that’s left when a tooth is extracted, the device spans that gap by attaching to the teeth on each side. In effect, the device is bridging the gap.

When prepared and installed properly, the bridge is difficult for anyone to distinguish from the real thing. That’s because the body of the bridge is shaped to resemble the tooth that it’s replacing. In a sense, it could be referred to as a bridge tooth, since it looks so much like an actual tooth, and does minimize the chance for anyone to notice there’s a gap left by a missing tooth.

Is There More Than One Type of Bridge?

There is more than one type of bridge. The one that your dentist will recommend depends on the gap that’s present, and the number of teeth that the bridge will replace. You likely need a design that could be referred to as a single tooth bridge; this is also known as a traditional tooth bridge since it replaces a single tooth.

There’s also a design known as a cantilever bridge. In an older design, this type of bridge is not used as often today. It’s made to fill in gaps when there is only a natural tooth on one side of the gap. The primary function in the past was to use it as a replacement for the back teeth.

A Maryland bridge consists of a metal framework that supports a porcelain tooth as a way to fill the gap. The metal wings are bonded to the teeth on each side of the gap. There are also implant-supported bridges that are supported by two tiny posts that are embedded in the empty tooth socket. This latter option is sometimes used when there’s the need for a front tooth bridge.

How is a Bridge Kept in Place?

The bridge design will impact how the device is kept in position. With traditional bridges, it’s not unusual for small metal loops to attach the bridge to the healthy teeth on each side. The dentist may also recommend using dental crowns over the healthy teeth as a way to keep the bridge stabilized.

Cantilever bridges may also be kept somewhat stable using some type of bonding, plus a crown on the tooth found on one side. In the case of implant-supported bridges, the presence of the metal posts helps to ensure the bridge stays in place. In like manner, the fact that the metal wings on a Maryland bridge adhere to the surrounding teeth ensures that it will remain stable.

Why Use a Bridge Rather Than Some Other Solution?

There are other ways to fill in the gaps left by missing teeth. One of the most common alternatives is to install a dental implant. The difference between an implant and a bridge tooth implant is that the replacement involves a single implant and a dental crown shaped like the tooth that’s now gone.

One point that sometimes comes up in the tooth bridge vs implant discussion is the cost. Generally speaking, opting for the bridge is less expensive on the front end. For those who need a viable solution but will need to keep the out-of-pocket costs as low as possible, the bridge often comes out on top.

Does It Take Long to Install a Bridge?

Compared to a number of other dental procedures, the process of tooth bridging is relatively short. Keep in mind that it normally takes two visits to complete the task. Each visit will usually last between an hour and ninety minutes.

The first visit focuses on preparing the surrounding teeth for the bridge. This may involve modifying the teeth slightly. Impressions are also taken so that the bridge proper and the dental crowns for each tooth are customs prepared in advance. During the second visit, everything is put into place and tested to ensure that everything is stable and that the look is natural. This is true for bridges placed along the back as well as when a bridge front tooth is installed.

Is There Pain Involved?

Like many dental procedures, you are not likely to experience any type of discomfort. That’s because a local anesthetic will be used to deaden the gum. Depending on the type used and how long the visit is taking, it may be necessary to administer a second dose. You can let the dentist know if you’re beginning to experience any type of discomfort.

Once the bridge for the missing tooth is in place, there is the possibility of experiencing a little soreness. For most patients, taking an over-the-counter pain reliever recommended by the dentist will be sufficient. Your dentist may also supply a prescription for pain medication if needed.

What About the Cost?

Upfront expenses are often a concern when it comes to considering solutions for closing a gap in the teeth. You’ll find that the initial tooth bridge cost compares favorably with the expense of other solutions, including the typical cost of a single dental implant.

Managing the cost is sometimes easier if your dental insurance covers all or part of the procedure. Keep in mind that’s not the case with all dental insurance plans. Check before you make a decision and find out how much your plan will cover. You will either be responsible for all or a part of the total expense.

How Long Will a Bridge Last?

In terms of longevity, you can expect a bridge to last for a minimum of five years. It’s common for tooth bridges to last as long as fifteen years. There are some patients that are able to keep the same bridges for closer to twenty years.

Many factors influence how long your bridge will last. The type and design make some difference, as well as the amount of wear and tear the bridge sustains. Your dentist will provide some tips on how to take care of the bridge and enjoy more years before a replacement is needed.

The final choice is up to you. Consider the merits of a dental bridge carefully, and feel free to compare it to the other possible solutions. Ask any additional questions that come to mind. With the help of your dental professional, it won’t take long to come up with the decision that’s right for you.