All of your teeth play an important role in speaking, chewing and in maintaining proper alignment of other teeth. Tooth loss doesn’t necessarily have to occur as you age, but if you do lose teeth they must be replaced to maintain proper function of your mouth. Fortunately, there are options for correcting tooth loss.
Dental Bridge Options
A bridge — a device used to replace missing teeth — attaches artificial teeth (crowns) to adjacent natural teeth, called abutment teeth. Bridges are permanently attached (fixed bridges), where removable bridges are called partial dentures.
Fixed bridges are applied by either placing crowns on the abutment teeth or by bonding the artificial teeth directly to the abutment teeth. Removable bridges are attached to the teeth with metal or vinyl clasps, or by precision attachments.
If you’re missing one or more teeth, you may be aware of their importance to your appearance and dental health. Your teeth work together for many daily functions from eating to speaking. With missing teeth, it’s difficult to do these things. Missing teeth can and should be replaced. Fixed bridges are a great way to restore your dental health and appearance.
In the pictures below, Dr. Hill used bridges to replace a missing front tooth as well as multiple missing back teeth:
What exactly is a bridge or fixed partial denture?
A bridge (fixed partial denture) is a device which fills the gap where teeth are absent. Fixed bridges are bonded into place and can only be removed by a dental professional. Removable bridges, as the name implies, can be taken out and cleaned. Fixed bridges offer more stability than their removable counterparts.
Bridges vs Implants
Whenever possible, Dr. Hill prefers to replace missing teeth using dental implants rather than a bridge. Though bridges often last many years and are a proven technology, there are inherent risks with bridges that aren’t present when using an implant. With a bridge, the teeth on either side of the missing tooth must be modified to accept a crown, but when using an implant they are left alone as nature intended. Dr. Hill follows a conservative philosophy and believes that it is always better to conserve natural tooth structure, which is a strong advantage when choosing implants. Cleaning under a bridge requires additional work and attention, because the teeth are linked and cannot be flossed conventionally. With implants, teeth are brushed and flossed normally. As a final advantage, implants add additional support to your bite, where bridges place additional stress on the teeth bearing the bridge’s pontic (the false tooth in the middle). Dr. Hill will discuss your individual situation with you and help you choose the best option for your specific situation.
Why do I need a bridge?
Oral functionality and appearance are important reasons for wearing a bridge. A bridge helps support your lips and cheeks. The loss of a back tooth may cause your mouth to sink and your face to look older.
Dental health is the most important reason for a bridge. Teeth were designed to complement each other. Unusual stresses are placed on the gums and other oral tissues when teeth are missing, causing a number of potentially harmful disorders including position shifting of adjacent teeth and changes in bite which become more difficult, complicated and expensive to fix if too much time passes before a missing tooth is replaced.
Increased risk of gum disease has proven to be one of the worst side effects of missing teeth and can be aleviated with a bridge.
Missing teeth can cause speech disorders as they are used to make many of the sounds we use to speak clearly.
How is a bridge attached?
The attachment procedure usually takes two or three appointments to complete. At the first appointment Dr. Hill will prepare the teeth on either side of the gap by removing a portion of the enamel and dentin, as is done with a crown.
Since the bridge must be fabricated very precisely to ensure correct bite and to match the opposing tooth, impressions of the teeth are taken and sent to a lab where the bridge will be constructed. With long bridges, there is sometimes an appointment to verify the fit of the inner framework of the bridge before it is finalized.
Fixed bridges are typically cemented to the natural teeth next to the space left by the missing tooth. A pontic (false tooth) replaces the lost tooth. Abutment Crowns, which are cemented onto the natural teeth, provide support for the bridge.
In certain situations and usually in with front teeth, a Maryland Bridge can be used. These bridges require very little if any alteration to the teeth next to the missing tooth, and use flat “wings” which are bonded to the back of the remaining teeth. They are also a good intermediate treatment for people who are too young for implant placement.
What materials are used?
Bridges can be constructed from semi-precious alloys covered with baked-on tooth colored porcelain, milled ceramics, or milled ceramics covered with baked-on porcelains. Which is best is determined by the length of the bridge, the amount of chewing force involved, and your specific history including bite forces, habits, cosmetic concerns etc. Dr. Hill will be happy to discuss these conditions and advise you on the best choice for your specific needs.
How do I take care of my bridge?
A strict regimen of brushing and flossing will keep the bridge and surrounding teeth clean. This is of critical importance as the bridge relies on the neighboring teeth for support and can be prone to leakage and decay if not cared for properly.