What Is a Cantilever Bridge Dental: What to Know

Cantilever bridges are effective methods for fixing missing teeth. Learn everything you need to know and how to afford it without insurance.

September 29, 2022
What Is a Cantilever Bridge Dental: What to Know

Keeping a healthy mouth is important for overall health, just as your overall appearance. But tooth decay or trauma to the gum line can affect your oral health. If you lose a tooth or need to get a tooth extracted, you might need to get a dental bridge.

There are many different types of dental bridges, from traditional bridges and dental implant-supported bridges to Maryland bridges and, of course, cantilevers. Cantilevers are a special type of bridge that works differently from traditional ones. 

Let’s look at how they work, why you might need one, and how you can afford them at a low price – even without insurance.

What Is a Cantilever Dental Bridge?

Cantilever bridges are connected to only one abutment tooth rather than two. A cantilever is a structure only anchored at one of its ends, which explains the name of this specific type of procedure.

While it is less common, there are times when a cantilever bridge is more useful or appropriate for tooth replacement than a traditional bridge.

Dental bridges are a restorative procedure in dentistry that can fill gaps if you have one or more missing teeth. A traditional fixed dental bridge is most common, and it includes two or more crowns on adjacent teeth that hold a pontic (a.k.a., an artificial tooth) on either side. 

On both sides of the gap are metal implants called abutments. These serve as the base of the dental crown where the tooth will be replaced. The full replacement looks like a bridge, hence the procedure's name.

When Is a Cantilever Bridge Used?

If you only have teeth on one side of the missing tooth, or if there is only one tooth healthy enough to support the bridge, a cantilever will likely be recommended. Traditional bridges are used when the teeth on opposite sides of a gap are healthy enough to support the bridge. 

While it might seem like cantilever bridges are a larger risk than traditional bridges, since they only attach on one side, they are highly successful treatments that can help to improve the overall appearance and function of your mouth.

Cantilever Bridge Procedure

The procedure for a cantilever bridge might require a couple of visits to your dental care provider, but the result will be well worth it.

  1. Consultation
  2. Local anesthetic
  3. Thorough cleaning and placement
  4. Possible tooth extraction

Consultation

First thing's first: you’ll need to start with a consultation at your dentist’s office. They’ll start by taking impressions of your teeth to make sure they can create a bridge that fits into your mouth specifically.

Next, they’ll need to prepare the abutment tooth to which the bridge will be affixed. Some enamel or dentin might need to be removed from the tooth to clear space for the crown to rest on top.

Your dentist may place a temporary crown on top, or perhaps even a temporary bridge to keep the abutment tooth protected while they make your permanent bridge in a lab.

Local Anesthetic

On the day of the procedure, a local anesthetic will likely be applied to the treatment area to help increase your comfort. Your dentist will then remove your temporary bridge to create room for the permanent bridge.

Thorough Cleaning and Placement

The underlying teeth are thoroughly cleaned, and then dental cement is placed to fix the permanent bridge on the abutment teeth. It’s pretty much as simple as that! It’s a relatively painless procedure that doesn’t require surgery.

The bridge might feel unfamiliar when you bite down, but that feeling usually wears off quickly. Finally, the dentist can make any last adjustments if necessary, and then you’ll be free to go.

Possible Tooth Extraction

Sometimes, you may need a tooth extracted before getting a dental bridge. This is often the case if a tooth is badly damaged or decayed to a point beyond repair. Tooth extraction is a surgical procedure in which the dentist cuts away the gum and bone tissue that covers the tooth before gently removing it from the socket.

Once it heals, your dentist can do bridgework to close the gap and restore function and appearance to the missing tooth.

Aftercare and Continued Care for Cantilever Bridges

One of the major benefits of cantilever bridges, and most other dental bridges, is that there is no associated recovery time. Right when you get back home, you’ll be able to eat and drink normally.

With that said, you still need to keep up with normal oral hygiene to extend the lifespan of your bridge. If you take care of it properly, your bridge should last longer than ten years.

Brush and floss twice daily, especially since it does not take long for plaque to build up around the teeth and gum line. Plaque build-up can wear away at your bridge and weaken the abutment teeth holding it in place.

Additionally, make sure you attend regular checkups at your dentist’s office every six months. This way, your dentist can address and correct any abnormalities with your bridge before it becomes too serious.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cantilever Bridges

There are plenty of reasons to get a cantilever bridge if you have a missing tooth. 

Advantages of Cantilever Bridges

These advantages include:

  • Less Invasive: Cantilever bridges involve fewer teeth compared to other dental bridges, so it means your natural tooth structure can remain.
  • Fewer complications: Since fewer teeth are involved, fewer associated complications are also. With that said, bridges are safe and effective procedures overall, and they can vastly improve your aesthetic appearance and oral health.
  • Better aesthetic appearance: Naturally, if you’re able to fill in missing gaps in your teeth, you can enhance your confidence and overall appearance.
  • Good Oral Hygiene: It’s not likely for a bridge to decay, making maintenance easy. With that said, you still need to take care of it like you would any other tooth.
  • Simplicity: This procedure doesn’t require anesthesia, and the recovery time is essentially non-existent. This makes it a fairly simple procedure that can bring you relief quickly.

Disadvantages of Cantilever Bridges

With all that in mind, there are some things to consider before getting a cantilever bridge that some might consider a disadvantage compared to other options.

  • Limitations: Your surrounding teeth, gums, and tissue must be healthy enough to support a cantilever bridge.
  • Risk of damage: Since only one side of a cantilever bridge is supported, there is a higher chance of cracking or other damage when compared to a traditional dental bridge.
  • Chance of failure: Failures are more common when abutments are non-vital teeth. While there is a chance of failure for any dental procedure, cantilever bridges boast a higher risk than traditional bridges.

Cost of Cantilever Bridges

A dental bridge procedure can cost upwards of $1,500 to $5,000, depending on the type of bridge you elect to receive.

The good news is that since a bridge fixes oral health problems, dental insurance can usually cover all or most of the associated costs. However, considering only about 45% of Americans have dental insurance, many people are without access to the care they need.

And even with dental insurance, annual caps and monthly premiums can make it more of a headache than it’s worth.

No insurance? No problem. Flossy is a low-cost alternative to dental insurance that lets you access the dental care you need. Our transparent pricing and pay-as-you-go model ensures that you only pay for the procedures you receive — no monthly premiums or annual caps in the slightest.

Plus, there’s no waiting period, so you can find a dentist in your area right away once you sign up for your free membership. That means you can save up to 50% on dental treatments, like bridges, whenever you’re ready.

And don’t worry, all of our dentists are experienced, knowledgeable, graduates of accredited dental programs, and have at least four stars on popular review sites. Click here to find one and get started on the smile you’ve been waiting for.

Dental Implant vs. Dental Bridge

A dental bridge is a great choice when you have healthy teeth on both sides of the missing tooth. But rather than installing a bridge, a dentist may recommend that you get a dental implant instead. 

A screw-like post is placed into the space where the missing tooth once was in a dental implant. Then, a crown is placed on top to restore the appearance and function of the mouth. This is a welcome alternative to bridgework that doesn’t fit well. It’s also good if there is a lack of tooth roots on either side of where a bridge should be placed.

Dental implants may not be recommended for individuals who have a history of smoking, diabetes, or osteoporosis. Additionally, they have a higher risk of failure with age, so they are not typically recommended for older individuals.

Conclusion

Cantilever bridges are a procedure to fill in missing gaps in the mouth with just supports on one side of the missing tooth. A traditional bridge requires two supportive abutment teeth on either side, but a cantilever requires just one healthy tooth.

Cantilever bridges are effective treatments that require minimal aftercare and are typically pretty painless. There is no recovery period, and with proper oral care, they can last for up to 20 years.

The issue with bridgework is that it is often expensive, and it can feel impossible to afford without dental insurance. But with Flossy, you can save up to 50% on common treatments like dental bridges without dental insurance.

Click here to find a dentist near you and get the care you need without a waiting period, annual premiums, or membership fee.

Sources:

Dental Bridges: Who Needs Them, Types, Costs, Procedure & Care Issues | Cleveland Clinic

Regional Variation in Private Dental Coverage and Care among Dentate Adults Aged 18-64 in the United States, 2014-2017 | CDC

Dental implant surgery | The Mayo Clinic