Dental bridges are a common solution for replacing missing teeth. They not only restore function and aesthetics but also offer durability and cost-effectiveness. However, a key question often arises: How long does a dental bridge last? This article delves into the various factors influencing the longevity of dental bridges, drawing on insights from multiple sources.
What is a dental bridge?
A dental bridge is a prosthetic device designed to replace one or more missing teeth. It’s a solution that not only restores the function of the lost tooth but also enhances the shape and color of the artificial tooth. The bridge is typically composed of two crowns placed on the abutment teeth (the teeth adjacent to the gap) with a false tooth, known as a pontic, in between. Unlike dentures, a dental bridge is not removable. During the dental bridge procedure, your dentist fixes it in place.
Types of Dental Bridges
There are three main types of dental bridges:
- Traditional Bridges: These are the most common types of dental bridges. They involve placing crowns on the abutment teeth with a pontic in between. Traditional bridges rely on the support of surrounding teeth on either side of the gap to hold the false tooth in place.
- Cantilever Bridges: This type of bridge involves a crown on just one abutment tooth with a pontic attached. A cantilever bridge is like a traditional bridge, but instead of relying on two adjacent teeth, the crown is cemented to only one tooth.
- Maryland Bonded Bridges: These bridges feature metal wings attached to the pontic, which are then bonded to the adjacent teeth. They can be used to replace your front teeth. A false tooth is attached to a small metal frame. The frame is fixed to the back of your teeth on either side of your gap.
Benefits of Dental Bridges
Dental bridges offer several benefits:
- Restore Your Smile: Dental bridges can improve your quality of life by restoring your smile. Many patients feel more confident after dental bridge procedures.
- Improve Chewing: Dental bridges can permanently alleviate pain while eating, making it easier to enjoy your favorite foods.
- Improve Speaking: Dental bridges can help with speech problems brought on by tooth loss.
- Maintain Your Face’s Natural Shape: Dental bridges can prevent severe jawbone deterioration, which can lead to further tooth loss and facial collapse.
- Prevent Teeth from Shifting: Dental bridges can prevent your remaining teeth from tilting toward the open space, which can lead to further tooth loss.
Lifespan of Dental Bridges
A dental bridge is a long-term solution for missing teeth, but like all dental restorations, it may need replacement or repair over time. The lifespan of dental bridges typically ranges from 5 to 15 years. However, with good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups, some dental bridges can last even longer, up to 20 years or more.
Factors Influencing Longevity
Several factors can influence the lifespan of a dental bridge:
- Oral Hygiene Habits: Regular brushing and flossing are crucial. Dental bridges require careful cleaning as they’re susceptible to plaque buildup and decay. Using a bridge-specific floss or an interdental brush can help clean the hard-to-reach areas under the bridge.
- Dietary Habits: Your diet can also impact the longevity of your dental bridge. Avoiding hard, crunchy foods that can damage the bridge is recommended. Instead, opt for softer foods and ensure you’re getting a balanced diet for overall oral health.
- Material Quality: The quality of the materials used in the bridge can affect its durability. Bridges can be made from a variety of materials, including metal, porcelain, or a combination of these. Durable materials like metal and porcelain can extend the lifespan of the bridge.
- Professional Dental Care: Regular dental checkups and cleanings are essential. Your dentist can spot any potential issues early and carry out necessary repairs or adjustments, which can prolong the life of your dental bridge.
Extending the Lifespan of Your Dental Bridge
To get the most out of your dental bridge, consider the following tips:
- Maintain Good Oral Hygiene: Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily. Use a fluoride toothpaste to prevent cavities, and consider using a mouthwash to kill bacteria that might cause tooth decay.
- Visit Your Dentist Regularly: Regular checkups allow your dentist to monitor the condition of your dental bridge and address any issues early.
- Eat a Tooth-friendly Diet: Limit sugary foods and drinks that can lead to tooth decay. Instead, eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and dairy products.
- Avoid Chewing Hard Foods or Objects: Don’t chew on hard foods, candies, ice, or objects like pen caps or fingernails. These can damage your dental bridge.
- Don’t Use Your Teeth as Tools: Never use your teeth to open packages or cut tape. This can cause your dental bridge to crack or chip.
While the lifespan of a dental bridge can vary, proper care and maintenance can significantly extend its life. Always consult with your dentist for personalized advice on caring for your dental bridge.
Comparison: Tooth Bridge vs Dental Implant
When it comes to replacing missing teeth, two popular options are dental bridges and implants. Both have their own unique advantages and disadvantages, and the choice between the two often depends on individual circumstances, including cost, durability, aesthetics, and the patient’s overall health.
Traditional tooth bridges use the teeth surrounding your missing tooth to hold a false tooth in place. The adjacent teeth are prepped and filed down to support the bridge, which can put pressure on these teeth over time.
Pros of Tooth Bridges:
- Cost-effective: Bridges are generally cheaper upfront than implants, and insurance is more likely to cover at least some of the cost.
- Quick procedure: Bridges usually require only two visits to your dentist spread over a couple of weeks.
- No surgery required: Unlike implants, bridges do not require invasive surgery or bone grafting.
- Can replace multiple teeth: If you’re missing more than one consecutive tooth, a dental bridge is likely a better option than an implant.
Cons of Tooth Bridges:
- Shorter lifespan: Bridges have to be replaced about every 5 to 7 years, although they can last more than 10 years.
- Potential for decay: Bridges can lead to more cavities and tooth decay in surrounding teeth than with implants.
- Can damage healthy teeth: The process of fitting a bridge can damage the healthy teeth around the missing tooth.
Dental implants are artificial tooth roots usually made from titanium. They’re mounted into your jawbone with screws to hold a crown or bridge in place. This option requires surgery and a longer healing process.
Pros of Dental Implants:
- Durability: Implants can last 15 years or more and are the longest-lasting option on the market.
- Preserves healthy teeth: Implants don’t damage the healthy teeth around the implant.
- Natural appearance: Implants retain a natural-looking appearance longer than bridges.
- High success rate: Implants have a very high 10-year success rate, around 97 percent.
Cons of Dental Implants:
- Cost: Insurance coverage is less likely to be available for implants and they have a higher upfront cost.
- Longer procedure time: The process of getting an implant can take up to 6 months.
- Surgery required: Implants require surgery, which may lead to complications.
Maintenance and Care
Regardless of whether you choose a tooth bridge or a dental implant, daily cleaning, similar to natural teeth, is vital. Using interdental brushes or water flossers, antimicrobial mouth rinses, and regular dental visits are recommended.
Common Reasons for Bridge Failure
Dental bridges are a popular solution for replacing missing teeth, offering a seamless restoration of your smile. However, they are not invincible and can fail due to various reasons. Understanding these causes can help you take preventive measures to ensure the longevity of your dental bridges.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Poor oral hygiene is the most significant and common reason behind dental bridge failure. Even though your bridge won’t decay, it’s still crucial to keep your abutment teeth clean. Regular brushing and flossing can significantly reduce your risk of dental bridge failure. Bacteria can enter under the bridge through the crowns, producing decay in your natural (or abutment) teeth. Therefore, maintaining a healthy oral hygiene routine is essential to prevent dental bridge failure.
Physical Impact or Injury
Physical impact or injury can also lead to dental bridge failure. This can occur due to unhealthy habits such as nail-biting, chewing on a pen, frequent snacking, or grinding your teeth at night. These habits can cause trauma to the supporting abutment, leading to dental bridge failure in the long run. Therefore, it’s important to avoid such habits to ensure the longevity of your dental bridge.
Wear and Tear Over Time
Wear and tear over time is another common cause of dental bridge failure. This can be due to inadequate support from the abutment or your natural teeth. If there is uneven distribution of weight on your abutment teeth, it can cause complications. Your underlying teeth can suffer trauma over time, causing them to weaken. As a result, your bridge can fail.
Other factors contributing to dental bridge failure include poor material choice and a lack of professional dental care. Bridges can be made from several materials, including plastic. However, cheaper materials may not have the same durability as bridges made of other materials, like porcelain. Regular dental visits are also crucial for the maintenance of your dental bridge. These visits allow your dentist to assess your oral health, giving them a chance to detect any potential problems with your bridge that could lead to failure.
How to Prevent Dental Bridge Failure
Preventing dental bridge failure involves both maintaining good oral hygiene and regular dental visits. Here are some actionable steps:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss daily.
- Consider getting a specialized flossing tool (proxabrush) to clean effectively under your bridge.
- Use fluoride toothpaste and antiseptic mouthwash.
- Eat a well-balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Regularly visit your dentist for routine cleanings and checkups.
By following these steps, you can ensure the longevity of your dental bridge and maintain a healthy smile.
When it comes to maintaining oral health, especially after dental procedures, the foods you choose to consume play a significant role. It’s crucial to opt for softer foods cut into small pieces and avoid tough, hard, chewy, or sticky foods like steak, nuts, caramel, and chewing gum.
Soft Foods to Opt For
After dental work, such as wisdom teeth removal, general tooth extractions, or dental implants, it’s recommended to consume soft foods to support a smooth recovery. Here are some soft foods that are not only easy on your teeth but also nutritious:
- Apple sauce
- Mushed up fruits such as bananas or avocados
- Well-cooked vegetables
- Mashed potatoes
- Well-cooked pasta
- Smoothies (avoid seeds)
- Ice Cream
- Milkshakes (eat with a spoon – do not drink with a straw)
- Mushy peas
- Soup-soaked bread
- Cottage cheese
- Soft cheeses
- Tuna or chicken salad (no celery)
- Deli meats
Foods to Avoid
While it’s important to know what to eat, it’s equally crucial to understand what foods to avoid after dental work:
- Caffeine, carbonation, alcohol, and hot beverages
- Foods that are spicy as this can irritate the gums
- Acidic foods as this too can irritate the surgical site
- Foods with seeds as they can get stuck in the wound area and/or dislodge blood clots
- Smoking for at least 24 hours following tooth removal surgery
Worst Foods for Your Teeth
In general, certain foods and beverages can negatively impact your oral health. Here are some of the worst offenders:
- Sweets, candy, and other sugary foods: These can lead to the buildup of bacteria, which in turn can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
- Soft Drinks: These drinks contain acid, which harms the enamel on your teeth.
- Coffee and Tea: If you add sugar to your coffee or tea, you may be doing damage to your teeth and gums.
- Wine: Both red and white wine contain erosive acid, which softens your enamel and leaves your teeth vulnerable to decay.
- Citrus Fruits and Juices: The acid can wear away at the enamel on your teeth, making them vulnerable to bacteria and cavities.
- Crackers: Crackers are refined carbohydrates, and many studies have linked high refined carbohydrate consumption to inflammation.
- Pasta Sauce: The acidic tomato sauce breaks down the enamel on your teeth, and the pasta’s carbohydrates help to feed the bacteria that cause cavities.
- Dried Fruit: Many dried fruits are sticky and can get stuck in your teeth, leading to tooth decay.
Maintaining a balanced diet is crucial for your overall oral health. By choosing the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones, you can ensure a smooth recovery after dental work and keep your teeth and gums healthy in the long run. Always consult with your dentist if you have any questions or concerns about your diet and oral health.
In conclusion, the lifespan of a dental bridge largely depends on the type, material, and maintenance practices. With proper care, a dental bridge can last well over a decade, effectively restoring your smile and oral functionality. Regular dental visits and good oral hygiene are paramount in extending the life of your dental bridge.