A dental bridge is an effective tooth replacement option that restores the function and appearance of missing teeth, prevents the remaining teeth from shifting out of position, and distributes the force of the bite evenly across the mouth, which helps reduce the risk of dental fractures.
Maintaining dental bridges with proper care can ensure a beautiful smile for years to come. In this article, we will discuss how long you can expect them to last, various factors that affect their lifespan, and signs that indicate that they need to be replaced.
The expected lifespan of a dental bridge
Dental bridges can last anywhere from 5 to 15 years or more. However, their longevity can vary depending on different factors including the type of material used to make the bridge, the patient’s oral hygiene and chewing habits, and tooth grinding or clenching activity.
Main types of dental bridges and their average lifespans
- Traditional/ conventional bridges: These types of bridges are composed of dental crowns placed over the two healthy teeth (i.e. abutment teeth) surrounding each side of the gap, with the artificial tooth (i.e. a pontic) placed in the middle. Traditional bridges can last up to 15 years when maintained properly. These are the most common type of dental bridges.
- Cantilever bridges: A cantilever dental bridge is similar to a traditional dental bridge, with the exception that it is only supported by one crowned tooth instead of two. This type of bridge is typically used when only one natural tooth remains next to the missing tooth. The expected lifespan of a cantilever dental bridge is typically 5 to 10 years.
- Maryland bridge: A Maryland dental bridge, also known as a resin-bonded bridge, consists of a metal or porcelain framework with wings that are bonded with resin to the back of the adjacent teeth. These types of bridges are commonly used on the front teeth, rather than the molars, because the framework is not as strong as a dental crown. The expected lifespan of a Maryland dental bridge is typically 5 to 10 years.
- Implant-supported bridge: An implant-supported dental bridge is a type of bridge that is supported by dental implants rather than natural teeth. Dental implants are placed within the jawbone, thereby becoming artificial tooth roots to support the bridge. With proper care and maintenance, you can expect implants to last more than 15 years. This is not only the best long-term solution but also the most durable option, especially when it comes to reducing bone loss in the jaw.
- Temporary bridge: A temporary dental bridge is a provisional or interim bridge that is placed in the mouth for a short period of time while the permanent bridge is being fabricated. It is designed to last for a few weeks to a few months.
- Removable bridges: Removable dental bridges, also known as partial dentures, are typically composed of an acrylic or metal framework with artificial teeth attached. They are designed to attach to the remaining natural teeth or implants using metal or acrylic clasps, which help to hold the restoration in place. These types of bridges are often used when the remaining natural teeth are not strong enough to support a fixed bridge, or when the patient prefers a less invasive option. While they can be easily removed and cleaned, they are not as stable or durable as fixed bridges.
Factors that affect the lifespan of dental bridges and tips on how to make them last longer
The lifespan of your dental bridge can vary based on some of the following factors.
- Oral hygiene practices: Poor oral hygiene can lead to gum disease and tooth decay, which can weaken the natural teeth supporting the bridge and cause it to fail. Maintaining good oral hygiene habits is very important for extending the life of dental bridges. Regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing with an antimicrobial mouthwash can help prevent plaque buildup and reduce the risk of gum disease. A water flosser or floss threader can help remove food particles and bacteria from hard-to-reach areas around the bridge.
- Chewing habits: Chewing hard or sticky foods can place excessive stress on the bridge and cause it to crack or break. Patients should avoid chewing on hard foods and objects like ice, candy, and pens, as well as avoid using their teeth to open packages, as this can also damage the bridge.
- Tooth grinding or clenching: Patients who grind or clench their teeth (i.e. bruxism) can damage the bridge and the surrounding teeth it’s supported by. Wearing a custom-fitted nightguard and/or seeking treatment for bruxism can help prevent damage to the bridge.
- Quality of the materials used: Dental bridges can be made from a variety of materials, including porcelain, ceramic, and metal alloys. High-quality materials, such as zirconia or porcelain, are more durable and can last longer than lower quality materials, like acrylic and composite resin.
- Age and general health: Patients who use tobacco products or consume foods and drinks high in sugar or acidity, are at higher risk for dental problems that can affect the lifespan of their bridge. Older patients and those with certain health conditions may have a shorter lifespan for their bridges due to reduced bone density or health issues. Avoid smoking and stop eating sugary or acidic foods in order to reduce the risk of dental decay, cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer.
- Proper placement: The longevity of a dental bridge heavily relies on its proper placement and maintenance. It’s essential to ensure that the bridge is well-fitted and adequately maintained. For this reason, finding a qualified dentist to perform your dental bridge is crucial. Dr. Delwyn Dick (DDS) and Dr. Lamont Murdoch (DDS) are renown cosmetic dentists in Coeur d’Alene, ID, with over 25 years of experience in successful bridge placements and restorative dentistry.
- Frequency of dental check-ups: Neglecting dental checkups can allow dental problems to go unnoticed and untreated, leading to more serious issues down the line. Regular dental check-ups, on the other hand, can help identify any problems with the dental bridge early on and address them before they worsen.
- Trauma or injury to the bridge: Any external impact or physical injury to the bridge can cause it to crack or break, making it less effective or even unusable. Any trauma or injury to the bridge should be evaluated by a dentist as soon as possible to determine if it needs to be repaired or replaced. Prompt treatment can help prevent further damage and extend the lifespan of the bridge. Patients who engage in high-impact sports should wear a mouthguard to protect their teeth, and especially their dental bridge, from trauma or injury.
Signs that a dental bridge needs to be replaced
A dental bridge can last for many years with proper care and maintenance, but eventually, it may need to be replaced.
These are some signs that indicate dental bridge failure:
- Visible damage or wear: Any damage to the bridge, such as cracks or chips, can compromise the structural integrity of the bridge and reduce its effectiveness.
- Discomfort or pain: If the bridge causes discomfort, pain, or irritation in the mouth, it can be a sign that the bridge is not fitting properly or that it has become worn or damaged over time.
- Loose or moving bridge: If the bridge feels loose or wobbly, it can be a sign that the bridge is no longer securely attached to the natural teeth or implants, and it may be at risk of falling out.
- Difficulty biting or chewing: If the bridge alters the patient’s bite or causes problems with chewing or speaking, it can be a sign that the bridge is no longer properly aligned or that it has become damaged.
- Gum disease: Gum disease can affect the natural teeth supporting the bridge and cause them to weaken and deteriorate. If the bridge becomes loose or unstable due to gum disease, it may need to be replaced.
- Discoloration: Staining of the bridge can occur over time, especially if it is made from materials like resin or acrylic. Discoloration may indicate that the bridge is aging and needs to be replaced.
If a patient experiences any of these signs, they should consult with their dentist to determine if the bridge needs to be replaced. Replacing a bridge in a timely manner can help prevent further damage and ensure optimal oral health.
Can a dental bridge be removed and recemented?
The cement used to attach conventional dental bridges to the neighboring teeth is extremely durable and strong, which makes it difficult to remove it without the risk of damaging the surrounding teeth.
However, there are a few circumstances in which the entire dental bridge can be removed and possibly recemented.
- If the bridge becomes loose, is causing discomfort, or has sustained minor damage, it may be possible for a dentist to repair and reattach it.
- If the bridge has become severely damaged or the supporting teeth have decayed, it may not be possible to salvage it. In these cases, the bridge may need to be removed permanently and replaced with a new restoration, such as a dental implant or a new bridge.
Patients should always consult with a dental professional if they experience any issues with their dental bridge. Our team of dentists at Kootenai Dental Group are up-to-date with the latest techniques and technologies to provide optimal dental care in Coeur d’Alene, ID, as well as ensure the best outcomes for our patients.
We will be happy to answer any questions you may have about dental bridges and other tooth replacement options.
Call 208-762-8750 today for your free consultation today!