Definition and Overview
Dental bridges are one of the most widely used teeth restorative treatment methods today. The term itself is suggestive: dental bridges serve as a "bridge" that fills the gap left by missing teeth. They are supported either by natural teeth or tooth implants.
A bridge is composed of two crowns (molded tooth-shaped caps) attached to a metal frame that are placed on each tooth on the opposite sides of the gap. These two teeth, where the bridge is anchored on, are called the "abutment teeth." The bridge is then installed with false teeth that are called pontics. Pontics may be made of porcelain, gold, alloys or a composite of these materials.
Types of Dental Bridges
There are three main kinds of dental bridges, which are as follows:
- Traditional Bridge - This is the most common type of bridge and is usually made of either ceramic or metal-infused porcelain. With traditional bridges, a crown is used and anchored on both sides of the missing tooth and the pontic is placed in between.
- Cantilever bridges - Used to replace only one tooth (usually suggested for missing tooth at the back of the mouth), cantilever bridges are used when only one side of the missing tooth has an adjacent tooth. This type is usually rare and more expensive to do.
- Resin-bonded bridges - This type of bridge, which is also called Maryland bonded bridges, involves the use of either metal-fused porcelain, ceramic or plastic teeth and gums set in a metal or porcelain framework. The framework on each side of the bridge is bonded to the existing teeth for adequate support.
The type of dental bridge to be used will largely depend on the existing condition of your remaining teeth and the area where the bridge will be placed.
Benefits of Dental Bridges
Dental bridges are cost-effective means to restore your teeth and offer both aesthetic and health-related benefits. Some of its major benefits include:
- Restoration of your teeth's physical appearance
- Results to a more aesthetically pleasing smile
- Restores the ability to properly speak and chew
- Maintains the normal shape of the face
- Evenly distribute the forces in your bite to prevent jaw problems and headaches
- Prevent your remaining teeth from shifting or drifting out of their normal position
When to see a dentist
If you happen to have lost or damaged any of your permanent teeth, whether located in front or at the back of the mouth, it is imperative that you see a dentist immediately for proper consultation. Installation of a dental bridge is usually advised as a more natural-looking and more convenient alternative to partial dentures and dental implants for tooth restoration.
A gap that is left by a missing tooth can cause many complicated problems. It doesn't only look unpleasant in appearance, but the gap can also cause greater strain on the adjacent tooth. In addition, it can result in an abnormal "bite", which typically leads to long-term problems including tooth decay and gum disease.
Dental Bridge vs. Dental Implants
Dental implants are also popular solution for missing teeth. With this option, artificial teeth are surgically screwed into the jawbone to replace the natural teeth. Instead of the natural root, a metal framework is used to keep the tooth in place. Dental bridge offers some advantages over implants, among which are:
- A bridge is less expensive
- A bridge does not require surgery, is less painful and can be completed in 2-3 dental visits
- A bridge can be used even in cases of significant jawbone damage
However, dental bridges do require the presence of strong, supporting tooth to keep the artificial tooth in place.
Dental Bridge vs. Dentures
Dentures are traditional means of tooth replacement that consist of artificial teeth and gums that are fixed in place as a replacement for missing teeth. Dentures work similarly as dental bridges in that they require the presence of natural teeth to serve as an anchor for their installation. However, these two treatment options for missing tooth offer some pros and cons, which include:
- Unlike dental bridges, dentures have to be removed and cleaned regularly to avoid infection and gum problems
- Dentures are prone to problems such as incorrect or uncomfortable fit that can lead to pain and chewing problems
- Dentures are a more cost-effective tooth restoration option than bridges
Dental Bridges – The installation procedure
The installation of dental bridges generally requires at least two or more visits to the dentist. Upon agreeing to a dental bridge, the dentist will first prepare your abutment teeth. Preparation can involve re-contouring or reshaping the teeth to ensure that there is adequate room for both the bridge and the dental crown. The dentist then makes the impressions of the teeth, which will serve as a model for the pontic teeth, bridge and crown. This part may take some time depending on the dental lab, so a temporary bridge or temporary denture may be installed.
On your second visit, the temporary bridge will be replaced by a permanent dental bridge and will be adjusted to ensure a perfect fit and the right, comfortable "bite". A few visits may be necessary before the bridge is finally cemented in place.
Taking care of Dental Bridges
Dental bridges last between 5 to 15 years or even longer provided that you take good care of them. Fortunately, compared to dentures, bridges are easier to maintain. Of course, daily cleaning is necessary to prevent tooth and gum problems. It is also important that you keep the remaining teeth, especially the abutment teeth, strong and sturdy. Make sure that you thoroughly clean the false tooth as well as the bridge framework. Your dentist will show you proper brushing techniques and advise the use of bridge needles or a special floss to ensure that hard to reach areas are also cleaned.
Dental Care Association. “Dental Bridges” Available: http://www.dentalcareassociation.com/dental-bridges
International Dental Health Foundation. “Cosmetic Dentistry: Bridges and Partial Dentures.” Available: http://www.dentalhealth.org/tell-me-about/topic/cosmetic-dentistry/bridges-and-partial-dentures