Main page> Treatments> Cosmetic Dentistry> Dental Bridges
When you have a gap caused by a missing tooth, one of the most common treatments is to replace the missing tooth with a bridge. A dental bridge is a false tooth anchored to neighbouring teeth, essentially bridging the gap, hence the name. The anchoring teeth, known as abutment teeth, have a protective crown placed on top and can be either a natural tooth or a tooth implant. The false tooth is known as a pontic and can be made from a number of materials including gold, ceramics, porcelain or alloys.
Benefits of dental bridges
Missing teeth can be unsightly and cause problems when chewing. Furthermore, missing teeth can lead to the face appearing misshapen, affect the bite, cause problems for other teeth and can lead to neighbouring teeth from moving and becoming damaged. A bridge can prevent all these problems, restore a natural smile and bite and fill the gap left by the missing tooth.
Dental bridges come in three main types:
- Traditional bridges
The most common type of bridge is known as the traditional bridge and involves placing a crown on anchoring teeth (abutments) either side of the gap and using a pontic, made from either porcelain or ceramics, in between.
- Cantilever bridges
When there is only one adjacent tooth next to the gap, a cantilever bridge is used, which essentially means the pontic is only anchored to one adjacent tooth.
- Maryland bridges
When several teeth are missing, Maryland bonded bridges are used to bridge this larger gap. These are plastic teeth and gums with a metal framework holding it all in place. The Maryland bridge is anchored an both sides to the existing teeth.
Having a dental bridge fitted
Having a bridge fitted usually means several repeat visits to the dentist. The dentist will first remove some enamel on the surrounding teeth to adjust the contours to enable a crown to be fitted. Impressions of the teeth are then made, which a dental laboratory will use to make the bridge, pontic and crowns. During the time it takes to make the bridge, your dentist will normally fit a temporary bridge to protect the area.
Once the bridge has been made, you will be asked to return to the dentist to have it fitted. The dentist will first remove the temporary bridge before fitting the permanent bridge. Sometimes the dentist may have to make minor adjustments to ensure it fits perfectly. Depending on the type of bridge, you may be asked to return to ensure the bridge is still sitting properly. This is especially true of Maryland bridges where the metal framework often needs minor adjustments. Sometimes a dentist will only affix the bridge with temporary cement, so he or she can make future adjustments before permanently cementing the bridge in place.
Common dental bridge FAQ
- How permanent are bridges?
Typically, dental bridges last for between five to seven years, depending on a patient’s oral hygiene and how well the teeth are looked after. In some circumstances, a dental bridge can last over ten years.
- Does a dental bridge affect eating?
Actually, a dental bridge will make eating easier as you will no longer have a gap. However, it may take some time to get used to it, especially if you have been used to eating with a gap for some time. During this time, you may want to avoid foods that require too much chewing.
- How does a dental bridge affect speech?
If you have had speech problems because of missing teeth, a dental bridge should help you speak more clearly. After initial treatment, you may find your speech is slightly affected until you get used to the bridge.
- How should I care for a dental bridge?
As with all dental procedures, good oral hygiene is important after having a bridge fitted. Because a dental bridge is reliant on the surrounding teeth, as long as these remain strong and healthy, they will offer the bridge a secure foundation. Daily brushing at least twice a day, flossing after meals and using a mouthwash will help keep teeth healthy and prevent decay and gum disease. Furthermore, avoiding sugary foods and keeping to a healthy, nutritious diet will also maintain tooth and gum health. If you do have problems with your bridge, good teeth hygiene will make it easier for a dentist to diagnose and fix any problems.