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Dental Bridges

A dental bridge is a dental prosthesis which closes the gap between two teeth. It can replace one or two missing teeth from an accident or decay to restore your smile. If you have more than two missing teeth in a row, an implanted-supported bridge may be a good option.

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What are the benefits of dental bridges?

Losing one or more teeth can negatively affect your dental function, appearance and smile. It may become more difficult to chew, eat and speak normally, and make you feel embarrassed about your smile because you have a gap from missing teeth.

Your dentist may suggest getting a dental bridge to replace missing teeth and restore self-confidence and smile. A dental bridge can replace one or several missing teeth in a row. When fitted, a dental bridge can improve your smile by:

  • Enhancing the aesthetic of your smile
  • Improving your chewing, eating and speaking ability
  • Restoring your natural face shape and volume
  • Replacing an unwanted removable partial denture
  • Relieving uneven stress on your bite

Material for dental bridges

Dental bridges are available in different materials and finishes, each with advantages and disadvantages.

  • Metal only

Metal alloys are the cheapest type of bridge but with an obvious downside. Metal-only bridges do not look like natural teeth. A metal bridge may be a good choice if the pontic and retainer would not be obvious when you smile.

  • Ceramic only

Ceramic, porcelain and zirconium bridges look like natural teeth. This makes them the preferred material for a front dental bridge, but they are more expensive because of the lab worm involved and the materials.

When ceramic bridges first became available, they were much less durable, but they are now stronger with modern technology and current materials used in dentistry.

E-max dental bridges are slightly stronger than all-ceramic bridges because they are custom-made from a block of lithium disilicate ceramic. This is more natural-looking and aesthetic than other ceramic braces because they are slightly translucent.

  • Porcelain fused to metal (PFM)

This dental bridge strikes a balance between appearance and cost. It is made from porcelain or ceramic fused to a metal base. A porcelain fused to a metal bridge can lose its aesthetic appeal over time as the ceramic thins out to expose the metal underneath. The PFM bridge may not be as strong as the ceramic-only bridge.

The most suitable dental bridge for you will depend on your budget and the missing teeth' position.

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Types of dental bridges

For the traditional dental bridge, the adjacent teeth serve as its anchor, and there are two ways to fix a bridge to the adjacent teeth. The dental bridge may be bonded or fixed.

  • Conventional fixed bridge

A fixed dental bridge is the most common because it provides a strong, durable option for replacing one or two adjacent teeth.

The prosthesis for a fixed dental bridge comprises a crown on both sides and one or two pontics (artificial teeth) in the middle. The crowns on either side are hollow and fit over the adjacent teeth to support and keep the bridge in place.

Procedure for a traditional dental bridge

Before fitting the crown of the dental bridge, the dentist must file down the anchor teeth. The supporting teeth must be strong enough to support the bridge and withstand the extra biting pressure.

The dentist may perform root canal treatment on the anchor teeth before filing down the teeth. After prepping the anchor teeth, the dentist will take a dental impression. This impression is sent to the lab, where the technician will make the crown. The dentist may offer a temporary dental crown or bridge to protect the exposed gums and teeth during this time.

 When the permanent bridge is available, the dentist will fit it and ask how it feels. The dentist will replace it with strong dental cement if it fits properly. You may need additional visits to improve the bridge's fit.

A big disadvantage of a fixed bridge is filing down two healthy teeth. If you want to replace the dental bridge in the future with a dental implant, the adjacent teeth will need crowns since the enamel removed cannot regenerate.

Special care when flossing and cleaning around the bridge is necessary, and using water floss can make the process easier, faster and more effective.

Generally, a fixed dental bridge is a durable and strong solution. If you choose a porcelain or ceramic bridge, most people will not notice any difference from your natural teeth.

  • Front dental bridge

A front dental bridge may need two crowns on both sides because the front incisor takes a lot of biting pressure. You need a five or six-unit dental bridge to replace one or two teeth.

If you've lost one or more front teeth or need to remove your teeth, the dentist will advise you on the suitable type of front tooth bridge.

  • Fixed-movable tooth bridge

The fixed-movable bridge will still be fixed, but the joint between the adjacent teeth and pontic isn't fixed. Allowing a small vertical movement places less pressure on the supporting teeth. This means the tooth preparation may be less.

  • Cantilever bridge

The cantilever bridge is similar to the traditional bridge, where the crown is attached to an adjacent tooth. This bridge may be suitable when a natural tooth is next to one missing tooth.

Its benefit is that it only requires drilling an abutment to one healthy tooth. However, a dental bridge with two supporting crowns is not as strong. A cantilever bridge will put extra pressure on the supporting tooth, causing more problems in the future. This makes them rarely used in areas with much chewing and biting pressure.

  • Bonded bridge or Maryland bridge

Your dentist may recommend a resin-bonded bridge if you want to replace a tooth. Instead of fitting the bridge over the adjacent teeth with crowns, the Maryland bridge has porcelain or metal wings on both sides, which the dentist bonds to the inner side of the adjacent teeth.

The bonded bridge helps preserve the health of the surrounding teeth, but it isn't as strong as the fixed bridge. Over time, the adhesive keeping it in place can weaken, causing this bridge to become loose or break off.

Dental bridges replace only the crown of a missing tooth, meaning the root remains absent, which can cause jawbone recession. Over time, sagging around the face may occur. If you want implants later on, you may need a bone graft first. This is the main problem with a dental bridge.

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Dental bridge vs denture vs implant

Dental bridges, dentures and implants are solutions for replacing missing teeth. Each solution has its advantages and disadvantages.

  • Dental implants

Dental implants are placed into the jawbone in the position of the tooth root. The implants are usually made from titanium, a strong, biocompatible material, meaning rejection of the implant and allergic reactions do not occur.

The dental professional will fit an abutment to the implant to hold the replacement tooth or crown in place.

The main benefits of dental implants over bridges include the following:

  • They do not affect the adjacent teeth
  • They help maintain the jawbone and face shape
  • Maintaining good oral hygiene with implants is easier, meaning reduced risk of gum disease and decay
  • They are durable and can last a lifetime

On the other side, dental implants require surgery and cost more than a bridge.

If you factor in the lifetime cost and inconvenience of replacing a dental bridge, an implant may be a better option in the long term.

The treatment time is another factor which some people consider. The tooth implant procedure can take several months because the implant needs time to settle and integrate with the jawbone before placing the abutment and fixing the crown. This time is too long for some people, making a bridge the most suitable option.

If you have a missing tooth from trauma, you may need more time to heal before getting an implant.

  • Implant-supported bridges

Patients with several missing teeth in one row or with teeth that aren't healthy enough to anchor the traditional dental bridge can get an implant-supported bridge. The dentist can install one or more implants to hold the teeth in place and fit a bridge. This bridge has two crowns and one or two pontics.

An implant-supported bridge is more cost-effective than each tooth's replacement with individual implants because it requires fewer implants.

  • Dentures
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Dentures are also known as false teeth. They have one or more prosthetic teeth fixed to metal and plastic frame that clips around the existing teeth. The newer dentures have flexible materials. The versatility of dentures means you can fit them around any remaining healthy teeth.

While partial dentures cost much less, making them the most affordable teeth replacement option, they are the least convenient. Dentures need special cleaning and may become dislodged or damaged by some foods.

Our mouth changes over time, especially with missing teeth, so dentures can only last a few years before becoming loose. If you do not replace them, they may become uncomfortable and lead to mouth sores. They may also slip out during conversations.

Comparing teeth replacement options

  Dental bridge Dental implant + bridge/crowns Dentures
Permanency Fixed to the surrounding teeth – non-removable Fitted in the jawbone, non-removable Removable
Longevity 5 – 15 years or longer 20+ years 5 – 10 years or longer
Comfort Like natural teeth, when fitted properly Like natural teeth May gradually become loose and cause discomfort
Appearance Like natural teeth, except for metal bridges Like natural teeth Visible metal clips and  my look artificial
Function Like natural teeth Light natural teeth Requires avoiding certain foods and removing them to clean
Private cost Medium High Low
Cost in the public healthcare service £282.80 Not available £282.80
Other advantages/disadvantages Requires removing the enamel on the adjacent teeth Requires surgery and has a small risk of infection Can clip out of the mouth, easy to damage or lose when removed

What is the cost of a dental bridge in the UK?

A dental bridge costs in the UK between £280 - £3200. The exact cost of getting dental bridges will depend on the following:

  • The material used
  • Whether you see a private or public healthcare dentist
  • The type of bridge
  • Whether you get a three or 4-unit bridge

You can get your dental bridge cost during your consultation with the dentist. Your dentist will also check your mouth and the health of your remaining teeth to determine if you can get a dental bridge.

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Is a dental bridge available in the public healthcare service?

Yes, it is. A dental bridge is one of the tooth-replacement options available in the public healthcare service. If you have one or more missing teeth, your dentist may offer a partial denture or bridge, depending on the most suitable solution.

However, in the public healthcare service, you do not get to choose your preferred. The dentist will choose the most clinically suitable material. A dental bridge for the front teeth will likely be porcelain fused to metal (PFM) for a tooth-coloured appearance. While an all-metal or PFM will be for the back teeth.

If you want a tooth-coloured dental bridge, you will need to pay for private treatment.

How much is a public healthcare bridge?

The cost of a dental bridge with a public healthcare dentist is £282.80 – the Band 3 treatment charge. This is a fixed price regardless of how many teeth you want to be replaced. Only some types of dental bridges are available with the public healthcare service.

If you are ineligible for treatment on the public healthcare service, you can get treatment at a private dental practice.

How much is a dental bridge at a private dentist in the UK?

Private dentists often charge per unit of the fixed bridge. If you are replacing a tooth, you will need a three-unit bridge, except you are getting a cantilever bridge that requires two units. Replacing two teeth needs four units.

While private treatment is more expensive, you can choose your preferred material and will not deal with waiting times on the public healthcare service.

Below is the average cost of dental bridges at private dental practices.

Types of bridge Cost
Traditional fixed bridge and crown £250 - £800 per unit
Implant-supported bridge (2 implants, 3-unit bridge) From £3500
Bonded bridge £350 - £1000

Although dental implant bridges are the most expensive, they are long-lasting and may be more cost-effective in the long run.

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Cutting costs on dental bridge

You can save money on a dental bridge by going abroad for the treatment, especially if you need implants. In some countries, a dental bridge cost and other dental procedures can be 50 – 70% less.

Travelling overseas for dental treatment may seem daunting, but some companies can help. Experts are available that help you find high-quality dental care abroad at an affordable cost, and you can request a free, no-obligation quote.

Dental bridges are usually available under dental insurance policies in the UK. If you have insurance, check if your provider will cover part of your dental bridge.

Many dental insurance policies have a waiting period before you can claim for restorative dental treatments like bridges. The waiting period can be 3, 6 or 12 months. You may also consider a credit card or dental loan to help fund your dental treatment.

Are there complications of dental bridges?

Dental bridges are a good option for replacing missing teeth. However, like all dental treatments, complications can occur. If you are concerned about the risks of dental bridges, here are some common issues that occur with dental bridges.

  • Infection under the dental bridge

Three main things can cause infection under and around a dental bridge. They include decay in the supporting teeth, poor oral hygiene, and a poorly fitting bridge that irritates the gums.

When you first fit a dental bridge, your dentist will inform you how to clean the bridge. If you think you have an infected dental bridge, visit your dentist immediately before it leads to a more serious condition like an oral abscess.

  • Sensitivity under the dental bridge

Your gums and teeth need to adjust to the new shape of your teeth, so you may experience some sensitivity around your gums and teeth for a few days after fitting the dental bridge. Sensitivity is more likely if you also had root canal treatment.

If the sensitivity continues for more than a few weeks, it may result from a problem with the dental bridge's placement. Ensure you visit your dentist to assess the situation. You should also visit the dentist if you start experiencing pain or sensitivity under your old dental bridge.

  • Trapped food under the dental bridge

Taking extra care when cleaning your dental bridge is important because food can get stuck in the small spaces between your gums and the pontic. Besides the discomfort, the stuck food will start to smell bad and serve as a breeding spot for decay-causing bacteria.

A water flosser can help remove food stuck under your dental bridge. The Waterpik Ultra is popular for its gentle but effective cleaning power around dental crowns and bridges.

  • Metal appearing at the teeth base

A downside of porcelain fused to metal (PFM) bridge is that the porcelain wears away over time, leaving a metal line at the gum line. This may not indicate something wrong with the dental bridge, but it is usually unsightly, particularly in the front teeth.

Your dentist will advise you on the next steps, depending on the general condition of the bridge. You may want to get an all-ceramic bridge to prevent this issue.

  • The dental bridge feels tight

It may take a while to get used to how your new dental bridge feels. The dental bridge may initially feel tight or painful due to the extra pressure on your supporting teeth. If this feeling doesn't settle after one week, inform your dentist.

  • The dental bridge is loose

If the dental bridge seems loose after fitting it, your dentist will re-cement it. If you feel the dental bridge is moving around, schedule an appointment immediately to fix it before it causes further damage.

With time, dental cement holding a dental bridge in place will start failing, causing the old bridge to feel loose or fall off. Your dentist can re-cement it if the supporting teeth are still healthy or have it replaced.

How to fix your loose dental bridge at home

You can get dental bridge repair glue online. Ensure you follow the instruction carefully so it can hold your crown or bridge in place for a few months. Fixing a dental bridge at home with glue is rarely as effective as getting a professional fix. You should only use dental bridge repair glue as a temporary solution before visiting your dentist.

If you have one or more missing teeth in a row and need a dental bridge for your teeth replacement, visit McKennell Dental Practice today at 21 Churton Street, London SW1V 2LY. You can call us on 020 7834 8802 to book an appointment with our dentist for dental bridges.

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Frequently asked questions

No, you can't. A dental bridge is fixed in place permanently. If your dental bridge doesn't fit properly, your dentist may remove and re-cement it to fit better. However, you can remove your dentures at any time.

Depending on the technology the dentist uses, it may take a few hours to a few weeks to make the dental bridge. You will require at least two dental appointments with the dentist. If you want to get a new dental bridge quickly, ask a few dentists about their processing time.

The dental bridge procedure is under local anaesthetic, so you will not feel any pain. However, you may experience slight discomfort from the injection. Temporary dental bridge sensitivity or pain for a few days after the dental bridge procedure is common.

Your dental bridge may feel strange in the first few days to weeks after its fitting. You may experience sensitive gums and teeth during this period, but inform your dentist if it does not resolve after a while.

Inform your dentist immediately if you experience severe pain or the bridge affects your natural bite.

Normally, a dental bridge can last 10 – 15 years or longer. A study found that about 72% of the traditional dental bridge abutments lasted over ten years, with the same longevity rate as dental crowns.

After this time, the bridge material will deteriorate, increasing the risk of decay on the supporting teeth. Your dentist will examine your dental bridge during check-ups and inform you if it needs replacement.

The cost of a dental bridge replacement can increase over the years, so you may want to consider investing in dental implants. Dental implants last longer, usually a lifetime, so they are a cost-effective option in the long term.

If your dental bridge dislodges while sleeping or eating, you may accidentally swallow it. This occurs often—many people who swallow their dental bridge notice it passes naturally without problems.

However, visit your doctor if it hasn't passed out after 2 – 3 days because it may be caught up in your digestive system and cause more serious problems.

The traditional fixed dental bridge sits over two adjacent teeth, but the cantilever bridge requires one tooth. A bonded or Maryland bridge has wings attached to the back of the teeth. Other types of dental bridges are less common.

Its costs between £350 - £1000 for a resin-bonded Maryland bridge. It only has one false tooth, making it cheaper than the traditional bridge.

A 3-tooth dental bridge can replace one missing tooth. Its other two units will sit over the adjacent natural teeth. Depending on the material used, this dental bridge costs from £750 - £2400.

An implant-supported bridge may be a better option to replace three teeth in a row. It costs about £3500 or more but offers a longer-lasting solution.

A 4-unit dental bridge for replacing two missing teeth costs between £1000 - £3200, depending on if it is porcelain or metal and the dental practice.