A bridge is a single or set of artificial teeth that are permanently affixed to implants or adjacent teeth. This type of dental restoration is used to replace teeth that have fallen out due to traumatic damage or loss of teeth in such situations as a car accidents, fights, or decay.
When you have missing teeth, it is much harder to speak, eat, and perform regular oral maintenance. By replacing them with dummy teeth called pontic, you will help your mouth function properly again. When missing teeth are replaced, your bite pattern and mouth shape are restored. This makes your tongue function properly again.
Bridge Fabrication, Cost, and Durability
Bridges can be made out of various materials including gold, porcelain, or porcelain bonded to metal. Depending on the individual’s needs, a wing or cap will be used to attach the bridge to the adjacent teeth. A wing is a flap or shaped piece of metal that is adhered to the surrounding teeth, while a cap is similar to a crown in that the adjacent tooth is filed down so the cap will fit over it and use its root system for anchorage. (See Crown section below.) Bridges are often sized by “units,” that is, how many teeth or units the bridge will span. A three unit bridge to replace a single tooth is fairly common. Sometimes the bridge is pre-created and inserted into the mouth, while other situations call for ceramic bridges to be created within the patient’s mouth with composite resin.
The cost of a bridge varies depending on how many dummy teeth are needed, whether wings or caps are used to anchor the pontic, and what materials are used. Insurance often covers a certain percentage of bridge cost as well as implementation and preparation services. On average, a three unit bridge costs between $1,800 and $2,900, while one false tooth with two wings costs somewhere within the $1,400-$3,000 range. It’s wise to plan at least $1000 per tooth that needs replaced and to check your insurance coverages so you can budget more effectively before proceeding with the process of bridging your teeth.
Though this cost may seem high, if you consider the expected longevity of the bridge, it is reasonable. Dentists will guarantee 10-15 years, but with proper care and regular check-ups, they can last twice that or more.
Patient Eligibility and Preparation Process
Unlike a crown, bridges are used in the case of missing structures or roots for anchoring the false teeth. The golden rule in bridging is Ante’s Law, a dentistry principle created in the 1800s that still applies today: “the roots of abutment teeth must have a combined surface area in three dimensions that is more than that of the missing root structures of the teeth [being] replaced with a bridge.” (Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge_%28dentistry%29) In the cases where Ante’s Law can’t be applied with just two caps or wings, an additional abutment unit is added on one side or the other so that the bridge will be able to withstand the pressure and torque of chewing. If the tooth intended to be the abutment of a bridge already contains a filling due to previous damage, an inlay or outlay may be used instead of a cap.
The preparation process will vary on a patient by patient basis. Tooth extraction, cleaning, and filing of abutment teeth may need to be done before a bridge is put in place.