A dental bridge is a dental prosthetic used to treat missing teeth. It is called a bridge because it literally bridges the gap that results when teeth are lost. Bridges are made of the artificial teeth (there can be one or more) called the pontics, held in place by the abutments, usually two dental crowns. Pontics can be made from a variety of materials, but are commonly made of porcelain.
To place a traditional bridge, teeth must first be prepared to receive crowns. This means that they will be filed down a portion and measured to have the crowns and bridge custom-made. Bridges can also be attached to dental implants, which are secured directly into the jawbone and therefore provide more stability. They require a longer period of preparation before the bridge can be placed.
Practically anyone who has a line of one to three consecutive missing teeth can be a candidate for a dental bridge. Longer lines of missing teeth may be better treated with fixed or removable partial dentures. Bridges do require healthy and structurally sound teeth to serve as their foundation, so if there is any decay or disease present, those will have to be treated before a bridge can be placed.
Bridges are not recommended to replace baby teeth; instead, a space maintainer will be placed to prevent the teeth from shifting until the permanent tooth comes in. If a child’s permanent tooth is lost, a bridge will not be placed until the jaw and teeth have finished developing (around ages 16-18).
Patients who want a bridge that is more stable and acts more like natural teeth may consider using an implant-supported bridge. Dental implants require a sufficient amount of healthy bone volume to support them, so dentists will conduct a thorough examination to determine a patient’s candidacy for this type of bridge. Procedures such as bone grafting or sinus lifts may first be needed to enhance a patient’s jaw and create a stronger foundation for the implants.
Dental bridges cost $500 to $1,200 per artificial tooth. Therefore, a bridge with one pontic will cost less than one with two or three pontics. The cost depends on a variety of factors. Insurance may cover part of the cost, but patients will have to fund additional charges themselves.