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Dental Bridges: The Definitive Guide (2020)

Dental bridge feature image

Do you feel self-conscious with a gap in your teeth?

A dental bridge is a proven way to help fill in a missing tooth.

Today I share the variations of how dental bridges can be applied and how these options might save you a ton of cash.

I also cover other ways to fill a gap in your smile you might not have thought of.

So let’s get right into it.

If you have a specific question about bridges that is bugging you, ask me a question through Ask Dr V and I will be happy to answer it for you.

What is a Dental Bridge?

A bridge is something that your dentist will use to span a gap. So if you have some teeth missing for a particular reason, a bridge can be an excellent option.

Bridges are made up of dental crowns and secured together by attaching them to your adjacent teeth.

A illustration of a dental bridge

A unique way to remember this dental concept is a hug with two friends, and you’re in the middle. You and your two buddies would now make up a typical bridge.

In this scenario, the false middle tooth (you) is professionally called a pontic.

The minimum size of a bridge is three teeth or units wide (one on either side of the missing tooth) and is a permanent fitting.

Types of Dental Bridges

There are 4 types of bridges available which can offer a solution to fill the “gap” in your teeth.

Your ‘Typical’ Bridge

The first and most common type is your traditional bridge.

When we say traditional, it refers to your day to day, run-of-the-mill bridge procedure that covers a minimum of 3 teeth.

Materials can vary as do the prices but you’ll find porcelain fused to metal a popular choice with dentists and patients alike.

Porcelain bridge

Other materials which represent excellent quality and strength are the new Zirconia types. These are near perfection in the eyes of many dentists.

Dental labs have really come a long way, and we look forward to seeing what is on the dental horizon in the future.

Cantilever Dental Bridges

These types are usually connected and secured to only one of your adjacent teeth.

This could be because it’s not aesthetically pleasing to attached on both sides or there isn’t the second tooth to secure it to.

Maryland Bridges

The bridge that gives your wings! Well, so to speak.

The Maryland dental bridge has little wings on either side of the false tooth or ‘pontic’ and your adjacent teeth being the attachment points.

Maryland bridge example

It is a relatively easy and straightforward procedure, and the bridge itself comes in a range of material options.

Maryland bridges are usually for the front teeth where there isn’t too much pressure or force from your bite that can impact the bridge itself.

Another thing to note is this type is not as retentive as a bridge that has crowns.

The right foundation must be present in your mouth for it to be successful.

Your dentist will be able to confirm if you are the right candidate for this type of bridge work.

Composite Resin or Bonded Bridges

Many professionals look at composite as a temporary alternative.

With that said though, It can offer a reasonably priced solution should you be on a budget.

Composite bonded bridge

This type of bridge can be created by your dentist in their surgery (usually) and fitted quite quickly.

A patient can request that their dentist mock up a composite bridge in their mouth when they would like the option to see what their future dental work will look like.

This is usually an inexpensive exercise and does wonders for understanding what the final result will look like.

Dentures in a glass of water

Dentures vs Bridges

Some people get mistaken when they refer to a denture as a partial bridge.

Dentures and bridges are entirely different things. One is removable, and the other is not.

A dental bridge is a permanent fixture within your mouth.

A dental bridge on a mould

Where can a Dentist Put a Dental Bridge?

As long as you have enough teeth around the bridge to support it, you can have a bridge anywhere in the mouth.

Your dentist will be able to check and advise you correctly on how many teeth should a bridge structure require.

Engineering a bridge is technique sensitive so that there’s minimal stress on the remaining teeth that hold the bridge in place.

A detntal bridge

What are Dental Bridges Made of?

A bridge is nothing more than a group of crowns connected together.

Crowns come in many different material combinations and offer an excellent and secure way to extend your teeth’s lifespan.

By simply protecting them with an extra cover you can also improve the look of your smile.

A dental bridge made up by crowns

The material that seems to be the strongest and most popular is porcelain to precious or semi-precious metal.

If you would like to find out a little more information about dental crowns you can check out our recent post Dental Crowns Covered: What You Need to Know

Bridge Treatment Process: Part 1

Before getting a bridge, your dentist will need to have a look at your teeth.

So the first thing is to book yourself in for a consultation to check the condition of your teeth.

Your dentist will inspect the state of the ‘foundation’ of your mouth.

A dentist checking her patient

Tooth decay, gingivitis and gum disease must be attended to and removed before bridge work can be discussed.

This applies to most cosmetic procedures. It makes sense; you are paying good money for these treatments, the last thing you want is for them to fall out due to complications beneath your teeth and gums.

The other important part of a bridge treatment is how much force is going to be involved.

Your dentist must select the right number of teeth to support the bridge so you won’t compromise the teeth that are remaining.

Dental Bridge Location

Depending on where you need a bridge fitted, it will determine what needs to happen in that area of your mouth.

When a dentist is working on the front part of your mouth, a bridge that’s only in one section can stand out, or your existing teeth on either side of the bridge will be highlighted, and your smile won’t look natural.

The reason for this is that over the years, your natural teeth will wear and age and most likely discolour causing your bridge work to stand out quite considerably.

Dental Work That May Be Needed

Composition and strength of your teeth will also change, and it is likely that you may need further cosmetic work. Your options can include, but not limited to:

  • Additional bridge work.
  • Dental Crowns.
  • Dental implants.
  • Root canal.
  • Veneers.
  • Fillings.

Lifestyle Issues

It is highly unlikely that if your dentist is informing you that you may need bridge work, your natural teeth are probably not going to be in Tip-Top Shape.

The reason for this? This can mainly be due to diet and your lifestyle.

Donuts contain a lot of sugar

Diet plays a significant factor here and can cause your healthy teeth to succumb to decay and other teeth and gum related issues.

Lifestyle factors include but not limited to:

  • Smoking.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.
  • Too much sugary foods.

Dental Hygiene Factors

Oral hygiene is not a lifestyle factor, but it should be mentioned in the same breath.

Oral health and a regular, consistent routine is up there when it comes to protecting your teeth.

This means brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing as well.

Good news is that the dental crowns which make up your bridge will provide your natural teeth with added protection and strength.

So that is a big double thumbs up!

Bridge Treatment: Part 2

Your dentist is likely to take an x-ray which will provide a detailed look at your root structure.

An X-ray will confirm if the tooth is dead or alive.

Some of the other common areas your dentist will look at are:

  • Checking the height of your jawbone.
  • Assessing damage to the teeth.
  • Making sure the jaw joint is working correctly.

When your dentist has checked out your foundations, they will then be able to look at the aesthetics.

Remember function and force should be number 1 on your dentists’ mind, then comes aesthetics.

By this we mean, that function is most important before the “look” of your teeth is created.

Your dentist will ensure that your bite is functioning correctly first, so teeth are not being ground down, worn away or causing excess pressure on one side of your jaw compared to the other.

A woman slightly showing her smile

Aesthetics – Your New Look

The advancement in technology has provided us with a wide array of choice when it comes to dental bridge materials.

Because bridges are made up of a series of crowns, your bridge can be computer generated in a dental lab and 3D printed for you.

Most people who go through with some dental lab constructed cosmetic treatment are blown away by how good the outcome is these days.

Having the technology also gives you an opportunity to experience a version that is temporary before having your final bridge put in place.

Your dentist should be able to create a composite bridge in the interim which gives you two benefits:

  • Fills the gap while you wait, so it reduces the possibility of self-confidence issues.
  • Gives you the chance to check the shade, feel and look of the bridge.

How are Dental Bridges Fitted?

Once all the work in the dental lab is finalised, your dentist will arrange for you to come back in for the fitting process.

This shouldn’t take too long, but it does depend on how experienced your dentist is.

We’ve found that the level of experience that your dentist has can impact time in the dental chair.

Dental Aware

Depending on your dental situation, your dentist may decide to affix the bridge in place temporarily.

This gives you the opportunity to trial the bridge.

When checked and you and your dentist are happy, dental cement will be used to secure your new bridge in place.


A lady with healthy teeth

Healthy Teeth and Bridges: What Are Your Options?

Let’s say that your teeth are very healthy and unfortunately you’ve lost a tooth due to trauma or some accident.

Your dentist may recommend putting in a dental implant and not a bridge.

Even if this option is discussed with you, you still must be a candidate for this dental procedure.

What Do We Mean By Being a Candidate?

Well, there must be enough bone to support such a cosmetic treatment choice.

Things that your dentist need to look at when your bone is concerned:

  1. Do you have enough bone to secure an implant?
  2. Is your jaw bone wide enough?
  3. How long has your teeth or tooth been out of its socket?
  4. What’s your age?

Dental implants are known to cost quite a bit, but they do fulfil a genuine purpose in a particular dental situation.

There’s a term called osteo-economic, and it relates to your bone as well as your bank account.

People sometimes don’t have enough funds but do have plenty of jaw bone to work with.

On the other hand, some have enough to cover the cost but not enough quality bone.

A person showing how a dental implant works

If you’re considering opting for a dental implant and you would like to find out all the need-to-know information, you can check out our recent post – Finding a Solution with Dental Implants.

If you’ve got a niggling query, please touch base with me via the comment section at the end of the post or Ask Dr V and I will answer it for you.

Australian money

Dental Bridge Cost

It can be a dilemma when funds are not plentiful.

Many things in life relate to this, but it is something that I encounter on a somewhat regular basis.

Unfortunately, the cost of materials, instruments and consultations can all add up.

However, Bridges can be a fraction of the cost of some of the other cosmetic treatments that are out there.

How much you end up paying for a dental bridge will depend on specific factors including:

  1. Where in the mouth your bridge will be fitted?
  2. How many teeth/units your bridge will cover?
  3. What type of material you choose?
  4. Which dentist do you choose to go to?

On average you can expect to pay between $2700 – $4000 for a standard 3 unit bridge.

The reason our range is wide is that it’s taking into account the points listed above which will determine exactly how much you’ll pay.

It’s therefore important to remember that your circumstance should be checked out by your dentist.

They’ll then be able to assess and confirm a detailed breakdown of what’s required and how much it will cost you.

Dental Cost Calculator

To help you find what the cost of getting a dental bridge is, you can use our Dental Cost Calculator which gives you the average cost in each state or territory of Australia.

Simply select your state or territory and search either by a treatment, symptom or item code if you have that 3 didgit number.

Dental 3 unit bridge average cost in NSW

The average cost of a 3 unit bridge in NSW – Dental Aware Cost Calculator

Final Thoughts on Costs

When deciding on the right dental treatment option for yourself, no matter what it is, the financial aspect does come into the mix.

A good dentist should be able to help you as most are solution oriented and really want to help you get the best outcome for the best price.

They will peer into what the current state of your oral health is, think outside the box to create a plan that is appropriate and financially viable.

Benefits of Dental Bridges

The main benefits we can see with dental bridges can be grouped into two areas:

  1. Function and use of your mouth.
  2. The look or aesthetic value they offer.

The function of your teeth and their purpose when you think of it is quite crucial to your day to day life.

How we eat, talk and make impressions can dramatically affect us if one or all are not functioning as they should.

So what can a dental bridge help you with?

Well, we’ve discovered 7 ways a dental bridge can help you, but there might be a few more that can be added to this list.

Let’s go:

  1. Your smile and first impressions you make.
  2. Self-confidence can be greatly improved.
  3. Eating and chewing food.
  4. Fixing and correcting the force of your bite.
  5. Speaking with friends and family.
  6. Keeping your face and its contours in tacked.
  7. Providing your natural teeth extra security and strength.

How Long does a Dental Bridge Last?

Dentists’ will typically say around about 8 to 10 years.

I’ve had cases where they’ve lasted for up to 25 years.

How long you will have your bridge will be dependent upon whether or not you look after your mouth.

How well you clean around the bridge with an interproximal brush and what your eating and drinking habits are.

A toothbrush for oral hygiene

Maintaining and Looking After Your Bridge Work

General oral hygiene is a must, but there are few additional ways that you can look after that bridge of yours.

A Waterpik is a handy little device which shoots a small stream of water to flush out any debris from under your bridge.

Super Floss to help with your Dental Bridge

Another tip is to use super floss which can be threaded under the false tooth so you can get right into all the light crevices and get it nice and clean.

Finally, our last pro tip is to use Piksters.

These are tiny interdental or interproximal brushes, similar to that of a bottle brush you’d find in your kitchen.

Piksters interdental brushes

Piksters interdental brushes – great for getting into those interdental areas

You stick them in between your teeth and under the false tooth.

 

A gentle action is always recommended when doing any oral hygiene activity.

So there is a specific way of maintaining your bridge work and the other thing that is super important; get to your dentist twice a year.

The more you stick to this timeframe the better you’ll be off.

Any change in your dental bridge over the course of its life, your dentist will be able to pick it up in time and potentially save you money.

If you would like more information on these interdental brushes and want to know how they really go, read our in-depth review of Piksters Interdental Brushes.

Remember… Prevention is what matters most

Dental Aware

Does a Dental Bridge cause Pain?

Pain is very subjective.

You might experience some sensitivity while you have the temporaries on, but most of the time there shouldn’t be any pain.

Pain is a general indicator that something is wrong.

Should you feel like there could be a problem and, you feel discomfort, get to your dentist and let them check it out for you as soon as possible.

A man with pain in the mouth

Conclusion

A missing tooth or even terrible looking teeth can cause a lot of mental discomforts and quite possibly lead to lower levels of self-confidence.

One of the ways to combat this pain is to get a dental bridge put in place which changes your smile and brings a new you to the table.

This dental treatment gives you the option to tidy up your smile, as well as protect and strengthen your natural teeth in the process.

A dental bridge is a popular choice amongst many professionals and patients who require an unwanted gap in their teeth fixed.

Are you thinking about having a Dental Bridge fitted?

Dr Veronica Roller

By Dr Veronica Roller

Created at June 18, 2018, Updated at December 15, 2020

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