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Bridge Out Ahead: Avoiding the Common Pitfalls of Dental Bridges

Since as far back as 200AD, dental bridges have been used to fill the void left by a missing tooth (or group of teeth). Fast forward to the 18th century, and even the famous patriot, Paul Revere was familiar with the dental bridge. In fact, during his life – Mr. Revere even placed advertisements in a local Boston newspaper, informing his neighbors of his very own dental practice.

Fortunately for the patients, the vetting process for dentists has become quite a bit more selective. But in his experience as a dentist, even Revere was familiar enough with the dental bridge to be able to identify a friend’s body by the bridge that he himself constructed.

This brief bit of history goes to show that dental bridges have been time tested, and they’ve continued to get better and better as the years have passed. Today, a modern dental bridge is often indistinguishable from a natural tooth, and their stability and strength allow patients of all ages to use their restored teeth almost as if they were their natural teeth.

But there are some pitfalls when it comes to dental bridgework.

the Most Common Disadvantages of Having a Dental Bridge

They are “Destructive”

Dental bridgework relies on the teeth on either side of a missing tooth as support. Unfortunately, if those teeth are completely natural and healthy – preparing them for the bridge can be damaging. This is because, in order to make enough room for the bridge, the teeth need to be filed down.

There is one situation where this is actually positive. If the teeth in question have already been damaged or have had multiple fillings, this step will actually play an important role by protecting those teeth in the future.

They Can Get Expensive

Not only can dental crowns add up (and bridgework typically requires two crowns), but dental bridges tend to last between 5 and 8 years.

For this reason, if the supporting teeth are healthy and only one tooth needs to be replaced – dentists often recommend dental implants. While a dental implant can cost more at the outset, a dental implant will last as long as a natural tooth, doesn’t damage the teeth on either side, and makes oral care easier — all factors that can help save money in the long run.

They Can Damage Your Nerves

When your dentist prepares your teeth for the crowns used to support your future dental bridge, there’s a small chance (roughly 1-15%) that the nerve in the tooth could die, which ultimately could require future root canal treatment. If you’re at a particular risk for this, your dentist may recommend performing a root canal before bridgework is completed.

The Appointment Can Be Long

Despite being one procedure that can replace a missing tooth in just 2 visits (compared to an implant, which will require repeat visits to the dentist’s office over the course of about a year before the tooth is fully complete.) The procedure for installing a bridge takes quite some time. Your first appointment will usually take between 1 and 3 hours. While the second appointment, when your bridge is installed permanently, typically takes about one hour.

They are Harder to Clean (When Compared to Implants)

With dental bridges, a bit of extra care is needed when it comes to cleaning. Since the underside of your dental bridge isn’t a part of your jaw, you will need to clean under your bridgework using a special tool known as a bridge threader. Because of this added difficulty, patients sometimes opt for the easier-to-clean dental implant, which can be treated just like a natural tooth.

5 Reasons Your Dentist May Recommend a Dental Bridge vs a Dental Implant

Picture your face and your smile as they would appear in an ideal world.  Now, picture your smile with a big piece missing.

When we’re missing a tooth, it’s hard to ignore. It’s only natural for a patient (of any age) to want to replace it. Fortunately, that’s where we have options. While the two most common options, dental bridges and dental implants, have a variety of advantages and disadvantages, today we’re going to discuss the dental bridge – and which situations it might be preferable when compared to a dental implant.

There isn’t enough space for a dental implant

Sometimes, a dental implant won’t work simply because there isn’t enough space to fit one. For some patients, missing a tooth for an extended period of time causes the adjacent teeth on either side to shift in place. If the adjacent teeth are allowed to shift too much, it can cause the gap to grow small enough that the implant post and prosthetic simply won’t fit without having to make more extensive adjustments. While a bridge can often be used instead, your dentist might also recommend orthodontic treatment to widen the gap and make the space suitable for a dental implant instead.

When Time is of the Essence

If time is of the essence and you need to fill the gap in your teeth quickly, a dental bridge will always be the fastest choice. Dental bridgework can be prepared and installed in as little as two visits to your family dental office.

When Surgery Isn’t an Option

Some patients simply don’t want to get the surgery required for dental implants, which can sometimes seem uncomfortable or invasive. Compared to implants, dental bridgework requires very little and is complete very quickly, improving your smile in virtually no-time.

The Question of Cost

When cost is important, and the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth would benefit from the bridge preparation, dental bridgework is an ideal solution. For an immediate fix, bridgework is much more affordable than dental implants. On top of this, while patients can expect to get at least 5 and 8 years out of a traditional bridge, many patients find that proper care and diligence can lead to a dental bridge that lasts for many, many years.

In addition to dental bridges involving a lower up-front cost than dental implants – it is also often recommended because dental insurance providers often cover dental bridgework, but not implants.

Questions? Get the answers you need. In our family dental office in Cypress, we provide support for patients needing dental bridges virtually every day. To learn more, schedule a consultation or contact us today. 

When a Dental Bridge is Right For You

Whenever you think it might be time for some long-overdue dental work, it’s only natural to do a little research in order to learn which procedure is the most appropriate for your situation.

When it comes to replacing teeth, one of the most time-honored and reliable treatments remains the dental bridge.

But don’t let the fact that dental bridges are time-honored, make you think they’re antiquated or old-fashioned. As dental technology has advanced over the years, so to have the flexibility, longevity, and reliability of dental bridges. Today’s dental bridges can last for many years, while successfully replacing missing teeth virtually everywhere in your mouth.

The Good News: 

The good news is that virtually anyone missing either one to three teeth is a candidate for replacing them with a dental bridge. To support the bridge, your healthy surrounding teeth will serve as a structural foundation. This means that they need to be free of decay and gum disease. Once these two conditions are met, the teeth are crowned and ready for the bridge and pontic (replacement tooth) to be installed.

On the other hand, if you’re missing more than 3 teeth, something like a partial denture might be more appropriate.

If You’re Missing “More Than a Couple” Teeth

When you’re missing more than a few teeth, you might be a candidate for implant supported bridges. With implant supported bridges, the implant is installed directly into your jawbone, where the implant’s titanium gradually fuses with the bone. Because of this, while the teeth are being replaced, the underlying bone must still be healthy and strong. For most patients, this isn’t a problem. However, if you’ve experienced deep, untreated decay and infection for years – this option could be out of the picture.

However, even if you’ve experienced some bone degeneration, there is still a chance that an implant supported bridge is a possibility. For some patients, bone grafting procedures can provide the density necessary to create a strong implant foundation.

When a Dental Bridge Won’t Work

Bad periodontal support:  The very first requirement of a strong dental bridge is healthy natural teeth on either side. If the support for a dental bridge is poor, it could cause future issues. On top of this, if existing support for teeth is bad, the resulting bone degeneration over time (from having a prosthetic) could result in the bridge coming loose over time.

More than 3 missing teeth

It is often more affordable to replace multiple missing teeth with a partial denture. However, some patients prefer the more expensive option of multiple dental implants or multiple dental bridges.

Too Many Healthy teeth

Sometimes, having too many healthy teeth can be a problem. But only when you’re trying to install a bridge. Since a dental bridge uses adjacent teeth as supports, it’s always a shame to have to remove enamel and healthy structure from a perfectly good tooth in order to crown it for a dental bridge.  In these occasions, it’s generally preferable to use an implanted dental crown.