The Importance of Dental BridgesAll of your teeth work together to play an important role in chewing, speaking, and maintaining proper alignment. Due to their impact on your appearance and dental health, missing teeth should be replaced in order to maintain proper function of your mouth.
When you lose a tooth, nearby teeth may tilt or drift into the empty space. The teeth in the opposite jaw may also shift up or down toward the space. This will affect your bite and can place more stress on your teeth and jaw joints, possibly causing pain.
Teeth that have tipped or drifted are also harder to clean. This puts them at a higher risk for tooth decay and periodontal disease. When a tooth is missing, the bone may shrink. If this occurs, it can change the way the jawbone supports the lips and cheeks. Over time, this can change the appearance of your face. Fortunately, a dental bridge is an option for correcting tooth loss that will restore your bite and help keep the natural shape of your face.
A bridge is a fixed and permanent restoration that fills the space where one or more teeth are missing, and can only be removed by your dentist. Bridges consist of several or multiple crowns connected together as a single prosthesis. A bridge literally “bridges” the gap left by a missing tooth or teeth.
Key Benefits of a Dental Bridge
- Prevents adjacent and opposing teeth from tilting or drifting
- Keeps the bite stabilized
- Preserves jawbone structure and density
- Maintains the natural shape of the face
Fixed Bridge or Implant?
A fixed bridge is ideal if the supporting abutment (adjacent) teeth exhibit decay or are in need of crowns. Dental implants may be a better option if the adjacent teeth are healthy. This will avoid grinding them down.
These implants may be used to support a bridge. Dental implants are small posts that are surgically placed into the jawbone to act as a base for the bridge. A key benefit of implants is that they do not need support from the surrounding natural teeth.
When a lost tooth is replaced with a bridge, the teeth on either side of the missing tooth are prepared as crowns, which serve as abutments in order to support the missing tooth, or pontic. Therefore, adjacent, or neighboring, natural teeth (the abutment teeth) are serving as anchors to which the artificial tooth is attached. In other words, a fixed dental bridge (3 unit bridge) consists of a false tooth that is attached to two crowns. This bridge then fits over the abutment teeth and is permanently cemented to them, which holds the bridge in place.
Longer bridges can be created to span larger gaps for multiple missing teeth following the same procedure (for example, a 5 unit bridge). A bridge keeps the abutment teeth in a stabilized position and evenly distributes the biting forces over the entire surfaces of the teeth contained in the bridge.
Bridges can be made, or constructed, from precious or semi-precious metals, porcelain, or a fused combination of the two. All of these materials exhibit excellent function and durability.
Dental Bridge Procedure
This restoration normally requires two visits to complete. During your initial visit, we will remove any decay and prepare (shape) the natural teeth as crowns on both sides of the gap, or missing tooth. An impression of these teeth will be taken and sent to a lab where the bridge will be constructed. Then, your teeth will be fitted with a temporary bridge.
On the subsequent visit, we will remove the temporary bridge and try the permanent bridge on to verify the accuracy of its fit. An x-ray is also taken to ensure a good fit. After any necessary slight adjustments are made, the bridge is then permanently cemented to the natural teeth adjacent to the missing tooth (which becomes a false tooth). Crowns, which are cemented onto the natural teeth, provide support for the bridge.
Care and Maintenance
Dental bridges are very durable, reliable, and long-lasting restorations used to replace a missing tooth or teeth. These bridges provide significant stability, correct functional chewing problems, and are a great way to restore your dental health and improve your smile. Dental bridges can last at least 15 to 20 years or longer.
It is important to remember that a bridge can lose its support if the surrounding teeth or jawbone holding the bridge are damaged by decay or periodontal disease. Therefore, you must continue to brush and floss at least twice a day. Also, rubber tip stimulators, stimudents, proxabrushes, and/or floss threaders should be utilized to clean under the bridge. Good oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings and exams are vital in order to prevent future problems.
Want to learn more about after care? Click on Home Instructions for Bridges