Missing one or more of your teeth can cause you to be self-conscious about your smile, make eating or speaking difficult, and even cause long-term health issues. While dentures are a good option for some people, others seek a more permanent solution, like dental bridges. A dental bridge fills in the gap from one or more missing teeth with permanent artificial teeth that look and feel natural.
Dental bridges consist of two main parts: the abutment and the pontic. The abutment teeth, also called anchoring or supporting teeth, can be dental implants or your natural teeth. The pontic is a false tooth or teeth that fill the gap and attach to the crowns on the abutment tooth or teeth. Here are the four main styles of dental bridges.
- Traditional fixed bridge: This is the most common type of bridge, and it is typically made of metal, porcelain fused to metal, or ceramics. Traditional fixed bridges consist of two or more crowns that hold the bridge in place and a filler tooth or teeth that are all connected.
- Cantilever bridge: With this type of bridge, the pontic attaches to a single abutment tooth. Cantilever bridges are a good alternative for people who lack healthy teeth on both sides of the gap to support the bridge. Because your back teeth tend to sustain great force when you chew, cantilever bridges are typically best for missing front teeth, but in some cases, your dentist may decide they are an acceptable replacement for missing back teeth.
- Maryland dental bridge (resin-bonded bridge): This kind of dental bridge is made of ceramic teeth with thin metal “wings” on either side that are bonded to the back of the adjacent teeth or of porcelain fused to metal. A Maryland dental bridge eliminates the need to drill away any natural enamel on the abutment teeth because the wings are attached using a composite resin. They are a good option for people missing front teeth or a singular tooth.
- Implant-supported bridge: Instead of being held in place with crowns placed over adjacent teeth, implant-supported bridges attach to titanium posts implanted in the jaw. Implant-supported bridges are a good option for those with multiple missing teeth and who have a jawbone density strong enough to support implants. The primary benefit of implant-supported bridges is that they do not require healthy teeth to support them or healthy tissue to be removed. They are also extremely stable and help prevent jaw atrophy. Since they require dental implants before installation, they are not an option for those with compromised jaw quality. Additionally, patients need several months to heal after the implants are placed, meaning implant-supported bridges take longer to place than other dental bridges and may be more expensive.
Dental bridges are an excellent way to restore the look and function of your smile. If you are considering having a dental bridge placed, talk with your dentist about what style of bridge would be best for you.