A dental bridge, or also known as a fixed partial denture, is a dental restoration that fills in the gap between teeth by replacing the missing tooth with a prosthetic one made out of metal or porcelain which is then anchored permanently to the adjacent healthy teeth. There are several types of fixed tooth bridges including conventional dental bridges, cantilever bridge and resin-bonded (adhesive) bridge.
Cost of bridges would usually be around $200 to $2,000 per bridge depending on the depending on the type of bridge and other associating factors. Therefore many would like to know the advantages and disadvantages of dental bridges before deciding for one.
Advantages of Dental Bridges
- Improved aesthetics – for many people with teeth missing in the front part of the mouth, appearance is an important consideration.
- Ability to eat – some feel that eating with removable partial dentures is troublesome especially if food gets trapped in between the denture.
- Improve speech – the upper front teeth are the most important in modifying speech and a dental bridge feels more secure compared to a removable partial denture.
- Occlusal or bite stability – if the bite stability is lost, teeth movement can distort the current bite and may lead to malocclusion.
- Space maintenance – if the missing teeth can be replaced before tooth movements occur and when tooth movement is likely, this may well be justified for replacement.
- Periodontal splinting – following the successful treatment of advanced gum disease, it may be necessary to splint uncomfortably mobile teeth.
Disadvantages of Dental Bridges
- Damage to tooth and pulp – in preparing teeth as bridge attachments, it may be necessary to remove certain amount of healthy tooth tissue. Whenever a tooth is prepared, there is a danger to the pulp, even if proper precautions are followed.
- Secondary tooth decay due to faulty design of dental bridge or poor oral hygiene.
- Failures of bridges – no matter how good the dental bridge was made, there is always an element of risk.
- Increase plaque accumulation that can lead to gum disease if oral hygiene is not kept clean.
Cost and discomfort – bridges vs implants vs partial dentures
Many regard these as the most important disadvantages in any tooth replacement. Bridges, partial dentures and implant-retained prostheses cannot be made other than the individual care and attention of the dentist and technician. Personal service of this type will always be expensive.
The cost of partial dentures does not significantly rise in proportion to the number of missing teeth, whereas the cost of a bridge tends to do so. Dental implants treatment is usually charged per fixture, irrespective of the number of artificial teeth supported by each implant.
Traditionally, the charges for dental implants were significantly higher than those for bridges, which are in turn higher than those for partial dentures. However, this has changed over the years, partly due to increasing costs for conventional bridges and increasing use of implants.
If one were to compare the typical fees and calculating approximate fees per hour for the three treatment methods of partial dentures, bridges and implant-retained prostheses, and taking into account the replacement of one tooth with a partial denture as the baseline, replacing it with a bridge would cost 2 to 3 times as much and with an implant-retained prostheses 3 to 4 times as much.
Dental treatment is much less painful than some may imagine, but there is nearly always some discomfort, such as holding the mouth open for long periods and difficulty in controlling fluids in the mouth.
What to choose – fixed or removable dental prostheses?
- Individual’s attitude – it is often better, particularly when a number of teeth are missing, to make a partial denture first to see how it goes. It may be that the denture is satisfactory, both aesthetically and functionally. If so, destructive and irreversible tooth preparations that may be necessary for a bridge can be avoided, or at least deferred. Alternatively, if you are unhappy with the partial denture, arrangements for making a bridge can be made with greater enthusiasm and commitment.
- Age and sex – a partial denture may make a very satisfactory alternative to bridge or implant-retained prostheses for very young individuals who may not fully appreciate the lifelong implications of bridges or implants. It is better to make an adhesive bridge or partial denture until the person is mature enough to assess the relative merits of the alternatives. At the other end of the age scale, no individual, however old, should be written off as being past having a bridge.
- Confidence – many individuals feel more confident with a bridge than with any form of removable appliance. However retentive a partial denture, some people never lose the anxiety that it will become dislodged during speaking or eating. Others are not prepared to remove partial dentures at night.
- Occupations – public speakers and singers who make more extreme movements of the mouth often need the confidence that comes from wearing a bridge.