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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.
  5. Your dentist will place a temporary bridge using temporary cement. You will wear the temporary bridge until your permanent bridge is ready.   
  6. 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.
  7. 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.