Cavities in your teeth can be painful. A crooked tooth can make your smile less than perfect. And stained or discolored teeth can be embarrassing. Still, these dental situations are just annoyances compared to the loss of a tooth, or worse yet, several teeth. According to the American Dental Association, the average adult between 20 and 64 years of age has at least three decayed or missing teeth.
Missing teeth can change how you speak, make it difficult to eat, allow other teeth to get out of place, and even lead to tooth decay and additional tooth loss. That’s why replacing missing teeth is one of the most important dental corrections you can make to keep your teeth — in fact, your whole body — healthy. And one of the best ways to replace missing teeth is with a dental bridge.
What is a Dental Bridge?
A common way to connect two things — ideas, cultures, musical genres — is described as “bridging the gap.” It’s an idiom with a meaning that seems crystal clear. And one that applies perfectly to a common means of replacing missing teeth: a dental bridge. A dental bridge is just that — a device that bridges the gap between two (or more) missing teeth, by inserting the same number of artificial teeth (called “pontic teeth”) into the gap and connecting them to natural teeth (called “abutment teeth”). Dental bridges have been used regularly since the early 1900s and were by far the preferred way to replace teeth for decades. Today, four basic styles of dental bridges are available and affordable.
These are the most common type of dental bridge because, usually, if you lose a tooth or teeth you still have natural teeth on both sides of the gap. A traditional bridge uses these natural teeth to hold the “bridge” that replaces the missing teeth. The natural teeth are crowned, and the bridge is placed between them. It is then secured by cement to the crowns on the natural teeth. Most often made of porcelain fused to a metal base, these bridges are strong enough to withstand the force from chewing or biting, and therefore can be used to replace molars
This type of bridge is basically a specialized version of a traditional bridge that is used when only one side of the gap is next to a natural tooth. The bridge is attached to the single natural tooth in the same way as in a traditional bridge — cemented to a crown — but only on one end. Less stable than a bridge with two abutment teeth, these bridges are not sturdy enough to be used in the back of the mouth, where the force of chewing and biting could damage them
Also called a resin-bonded bridge, this is an adaptation of a traditional bridge, and is made of porcelain fused to metal, porcelain alone, or plastic supported by metal. Often preferred for replacing teeth in the front of the mouth, these bridges do not require that your natural teeth be crowned. Instead, they receive their support from metal or porcelain “wings” that are cemented to the backs of the adjacent teeth. Because of this, a Maryland bridge is only as strong as the bonding cement it’s attached with and, like the cantilever bridge, is not recommended to replace molars.
Considered the strongest, most stable bridge of the four types, an implant-supported bridge is just what the name implies: a bridge supported by implants installed in the jawbone. These bridges usually require a minimum of two surgeries, one to install the implants (each missing tooth is replaced with an individual implant) and one to place the bridge. In cases where an implant isn’t possible for a missing tooth, a pontic tooth is used instead and suspended between two implant-supported crowns. Due to the healing process after an implant, it can take several months for an implant-supported bridge procedure to be completed.
What Are The Benefits of a Dental Bridge?
Over and above simply filling an unsightly gap in your smile, there are a number of advantages to replacing missing teeth with a professional dental bridge. A bridge can keep the teeth surrounding the hole from shifting around, maintain your natural bite so you eat normally, and provide the same structure your lost teeth did to support your speech. It also makes it easier to manage a thorough and effective oral hygiene routine and leaves your mouth feeling as natural and as comfortable as it was before.
Dental bridges are usually rather small and lightweight, and ordinarily, getting used to a dental bridge is easy. They help you look like you did before tooth loss, by maintaining the natural shape of your face and, because of the availability of modern materials, they look the same in color and shape as your remaining natural teeth.
Caring for Dental Bridges
Of course, like your natural teeth, a dental bridge needs care and attention. It’s vital that all your natural teeth stay healthy and strong. The success of any dental bridge is dependent on what it’s attached to, be it implants, crowns, or natural teeth, so preventing problems, particularly in the abutment teeth, is critical.
Most dental bridges last at least five to seven years. But with good oral hygiene — flossing and brushing daily and getting regular professional dental cleanings and checkups — they can last ten years or longer. At Lifetime Dental Health, we can show you how to effectively care for your bridge and advise you on what foods are likely to cause problems.
Don’t go through life with missing teeth. It can compromise the teeth you still have, encouraging tooth decay, contributing to gum disease, and even causing the loss of more teeth. We can help! Whether you’ve lost a single tooth or several, contact us for a free consultation and learn how quickly you can enjoy a full set of teeth again.