Cosmetic Dentistry Blog Cosmetic and General Dentistry Questions Answered

March 26, 2012

The lifespan of a Maryland Bridge

Dr. Hall,
I am having a Maryland Bridge put in tomorrow. I keep forgetting to ask my dentist a question about it. He said it would have a lifespan of about 10 years. What happens after that 10 years? It is fixed. Does it loosen after that period of time? If it reaches it’s life span, then what happens? Thank you so much for any information that you can provide to me. I’m hoping that I’ve made the right choice, but have already been fitted and the bridge made, so there’s no turning back now.
– Theresa from New York


It’s confusing to people when dentists put a lifespan on dental work. The lifespan will vary so much from patient to patient, it’s hard to really say how long it will last. And it’s not entirely a question of something “wearing out,” it’s more a question of how long it will be until something goes wrong with it.

A tire has a pretty definable lifespan – the rubber wears away on the road at a certain rate, and with average driving conditions you can predict pretty closely how long it will be before the tread wears away and you need a new tire. Dental work is different. I like to compare it to a bookcase. If you have no children in the house and you just put books on it, it doesn’t get any water stains, and you use a wood polish on it periodically, a nice wooden bookcase may last 40 or 50 years and still look pretty good. But if you’re a young family with children and they are putting their drinks on it and their toys and maybe some really heavy things, it’s going to get scratched and stained and maybe in five years it will look pretty bad and be ready for replacement. That’s more like the way dental work is rather than like a tire.

A Maryland bridge is susceptible to loosening, but it depends on the stresses present in your mouth. If you have a stressful bite that tends to flex your teeth, a 10-year lifespan may be optimistic. If you don’t, it could last much longer than that. You could also get decay around the attachments, but that is going to depend a lot on your eating habits, particularly how often you snack. And then the other factor in the lifespan is the rate of staining of your natural teeth. The false tooth in a Maryland bridge is made out of porcelain, which doesn’t absorb stain like your natural teeth do. If you consume a lot of highly pigmented foods like certain berries, coffee, tea, etc., and you don’t do any bleaching of your teeth, the color mismatch could become bothersome, if this is a tooth that shows in your smile, after ten years or so.

I hope this is helpful.
Dr. Hall

(Note: What I say here about the lifespan of the Maryland bridge would apply also somewhat to the lifespan of an Encore bridge, though I would expect less lifespan out of an Encore bridge. The technique is similar – the Encore bridge is just made out of tooth-colored materials which are more flexible and thus more susceptible to de-bonding.)

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About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

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