The Maryland dental bridge is one of a few types of bridges used to replace teeth. Named for the University of Maryland, where it was developed, this bridge is resin-retained and commonly used to replace the front teeth. A pontic (false tooth) is attached to metal bands that are hidden with a white-colored composite resin and attached to the back sides of the teeth on either side of the pontic.
When Is a Dental Bridge the Right Solution?
Dental bridges are fixed solutions to missing teeth and, unlike dental implants, cannot be removed. Dental implants are suggested for patients who have only 1 or 2 missing teeth. A bridge is suggested for patients who have 2 to 3 missing teeth. It is likely that a bridge will collapse for a patient who has more than 3 missing teeth. For those patients, partial dentures are highly recommended. Complete dentures are the best option for patients missing all of their teeth.
Other Types of Bridges
Like the Maryland bridge, these two bridge designs are often used.
Conventional fixed bridge—With this most commonly used bridge, teeth on both sides of the missing tooth must be trimmed. A porcelain crown is then placed on top of each tooth. A single false tooth (pontic) is bonded to the middle, creating a bridge between the teeth.
Cantilever bridge—A common version of this is the 3-unit cantilever bridge. Two abutment crowns are placed side by side on the same side of the space created by the missing tooth. The pontic is then connected to the two crowns, which extend into the missing tooth space.
An Advantage of the Maryland Bridge
Supporting teeth are hardly affected by a Maryland bridge. They are not trimmed down, nor does a dentist fit these teeth for crowns.
There are two aesthetic problems with a Maryland bridge. The metal bands attached to the backside of the front teeth may cause those teeth to become a bit darker than or different in color from the rest of the teeth. A pontic made of porcelain, which is common, will be slightly lighter in color than the natural teeth. To match the color of natural teeth, the pontic should be made of a translucent material.
Placement of a dental bridge requires two trips to the dentist’s office. During your first visit, your dentist will want to ensure that you do not feel any pain throughout the procedure. He or she will administer a local anesthetic to keep you as comfortable and pain-free as possible.
Next, an impression of your mouth will be taken. This will allow your dentist to see what your teeth look like before you receive your new bridge.
Your permanent bridge will not be ready right away, so your dentist will fit you with a temporary bridge instead. This temporary bridge is weaker (and not made of porcelain) and will easily be removed during your next trip to the dentist's office.
Before your permanent bridge is placed in your mouth, you will have a chance to see what it looks like and how it feels when you visit the dentist the second time. When you are certain that it looks and feels the way you would like, it will be placed permanently in your mouth. Your dentist might want to make some more adjustments to your bridge to make sure that your occlusion (bite) is correct.
Care and Maintenance
Taking especially good care of your dental bridge is important. The best way to do so is to incorporate good oral hygiene into your daily routine. There are some simple steps you can take to help reduce future oral health problems.
Brush your teeth carefully after every meal with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. This is because lodged food can cause your gums and teeth to become infected. (If you do not receive dental attention for the infection, you may experience other problems, which will eventually result in the loss of your bridge.)
Properly flossing stops the buildup of food and the dental problems this can cause by cleaning those hard-to-reach places between the bridge and its attached teeth.
Going for dental cleanings by a qualified oral health professional twice a year is imperative.
Because debris left behind from foods high in sugar and starch can turn into harmful acids that may damage the gums and teeth, limiting your intake of such foods is also recommended.
Candidates for Dental Bridges
Not everyone is qualified to receive a dental bridge. A dentist is unlikely to recommend a bridge for a patient who does not brush his teeth twice a day and floss regularly and who has tooth decay. Smokers and patients with unstable supporting teeth are also not good candidates for a bridge.
A Maryland bridge is a very good choice for a patient who is missing a front tooth and practices good oral hygiene. To find out if you are the right candidate for a Maryland bridge, consult with a dentist in your area.