What is a Maryland bridge?
The Maryland bridge was popularized by dentists at the University of Maryland, which is how it got its name, but it was actually invented by a dentist in Atlanta. Maryland bridges are used to replace one or more missing front teeth, and they are only recommended for people with strong teeth and good oral hygiene. Made of a porcelain tooth, called a pontic, that is supported by a metal structure, the Maryland bridge is most commonly used in adolescents who have lost a tooth due to injury or because of a congenital condition and whose jaws are not yet fully developed. Longer-term dental replacements require full skeletal maturity to ensure success, but a Maryland bridge can be a good stopgap measure for younger patients as it can be removed when it’s time for a more permanent solution. To support a Maryland bridge, the metal structure, which looks like a pair of wings on either side of the porcelain tooth, is cemented to the backs of the adjacent teeth, and the tooth lines up with the natural teeth and restores the row of teeth. Maryland bridges require very little tooth preparation, allowing the natural teeth to retain their integrity, and they take very little time to place and are generally affordable.
The primary issues with Maryland bridges are related to their appearance and their durability. Because the bridge is made of metal and the pontic is made of porcelain fused to metal, and the natural teeth are translucent, the teeth that support a Maryland bridge can appear slightly darker than the surrounding teeth. Dentists should take this into consideration when crafting the porcelain tooth that’s part of the Maryland bridge and make the tooth a shade darker so that all the teeth match. The other aesthetic issue with Maryland bridges is that they are made of porcelain that has been fused to a metal backing, which means that the tooth won’t look as translucent and vital as the natural teeth, though most people find this barely noticeable. The most popular false teeth are those that are made solely of tooth-colored materials without the metal that’s part of the Maryland bridge, and until recently, the metal was an inextricable part of the Maryland bridge.
Thanks to advances in the materials and techniques used in cosmetic dentistry, Maryland bridges in more recent years can be made entirely of zirconia, a tooth-colored ceramic that is strong enough to support a pontic yet has the translucence and color of porcelain. Other types of bridges and bridge procedures that are less visible than Maryland bridges may also be appropriate when permanent solutions aren’t yet an option, and your dentist or your adolescent’s dentist can discuss these possibilities and help you figure out what’s best for you. Because Maryland bridges rely on other teeth for support, however, you should know that a Maryland bridge shouldn’t be considered a long-term option, but it could be a great solution in some cases when a person is missing one or both of their front teeth and is too young or otherwise not for the complexity of dental implants or other types of fixed or removable dental bridges.