Your options for replacing missing teeth, whether they have been extracted or fallen out due to severe structural damage or decay, include four types of dental bridges. A dental bridge consists of a false tooth or teeth (known as a pontic) anchored by abutment teeth topped with crowns. By closing gaps, dental bridges help improve bite strength, make it easier to talk, prevent your teeth from shifting into open spots, and restore your smile. Typically, the pontic has a natural appearance and blends in with your existing teeth.
The four main types of dental bridges are explained below.
Traditional Dental Bridge
A traditional dental bridge is composed of one or more pontic teeth adhered to the adjacent natural teeth, also referred to as the abutment or anchoring teeth. The abutment teeth are reinforced with crowns, and the pontics are typically made from porcelain fused to ceramics or metal.
A traditional dental bridge can be used when you have healthy, natural teeth on both sides of the gap. Before the crowns can be placed, the two abutment teeth will need to be reshaped to make enough room for the crown that will be cemented on top and ensure they’re strong enough to support the bridge.
Cantilever Dental Bridge
Although similar to a traditional bridge, the cantilever dental bridge uses an abutment tooth on only one side of the gap. It can be used when there are no teeth on one side of the missing tooth or when the adjacent teeth on one side of the gap are part of another prosthetic restoration.
As with a traditional bridge, the enamel is removed from the abutment tooth to ensure stability. While the necessity of only one abutment tooth makes this option versatile, a cantilever dental bridge cannot withstand as much biting force and can only be placed towards the front of the mouth.
Maryland Bonded Bridge
Similar to a traditional bridge, a Maryland bonded bridge uses two adjacent natural teeth on each side of the gap. But instead of using dental crowns, this type of bridge uses a porcelain or metal framework that is bonded onto the backs of the abutment teeth.
The Maryland dental bridge is considered a more conservative alternative to traditional bridges because the adjacent teeth don’t need to be filed for the placement of crowns. Their strength depends on the strength of the adhesive and framework used.
An implant-supported bridge is anchored in place with dental implants as opposed to frameworks or crowns. The procedure involves surgically embedding the implants into your jawbone, with one implant for every missing tooth. These implants hold the bridge in place. If it’s not possible to have one implant for each missing tooth, a pontic may be suspended between two implant-supported crowns.
Implant-supported bridges are incredibly strong, durable, and able to restore normal function. The placement of this type of dental bridge is more invasive, and you’ll need to undergo two surgeries. The first involves embedding the implants in the jawbone, and the second one is for placing the bridge. So expect that the process can take a number of months to be completed.