As people age, their teeth often tend to decay and weaken at an increasing pace. The act of chewing imposes significant crushing and shearing forces on the teeth, which exacerbates the situation. In many cases, dentists may have to resort to reconstructive (or restorative) dentistry to maintain proper function of the mouth. Fortunately, there are options for replacing lost teeth.
Dental bridges are natural-looking tooth replacements that help maintain facial structure, reduce stress on the jaw and fill in the gaps caused by missing teeth. They work by attaching the artificial teeth to adjacent natural teeth, called abutment teeth. Bridges can be permanently attached (known as fixed bridges), or removable.
Fixed bridges are used to replace one or more missing teeth. The procedure involves creating a crown for the tooth or implant on either side of the missing tooth, with a pontic (false tooth) in between. Removable bridges are often more affordable and more convenient than permanent fixed structures, while offering nearly the same support and reliability. They are held in place with metal clasps or precision attachments.
The healthiest thing to do when you lose a tooth is have it replaced. Otherwise, you risk problems with biting, chewing and speaking, headaches, muscle pain and an unattractive appearance. A full mouth of teeth is essential for many daily functions from eating comfortably to speaking clearly. Damaged and missing teeth can also lead to other dental conditions such as gum disease, infection and further tooth loss.
What exactly is a bridge?
Dental bridges replace missing teeth with a short row of prosthetics that rely on the strength of surrounding teeth and help stabilize the bite. Bridges also help keep adjacent teeth from moving into the open space of the missing tooth. The surrounding teeth are prepared for the bridge, which is then attached to the teeth. Bridges can be permanent or removable.
Why do I need a bridge?
Improving both the function and appearance of your mouth are important reasons to wear a bridge. A bridge provides support to the lower part of the face. The loss of a back tooth may result in a sinking of the cheeks, causing your face to look older.
Oral health is the primary consideration when replacing a missing tooth with a bridge. The teeth on the upper and lower jaws are meant to fit together properly and complement each other. When one or more teeth are missing, extra stress affects the gums and other structures of the mouth, potentially resulting in major dental problems such as gum disease and speech disorders.
How is a bridge attached?
The process of getting a bridge is typically accomplished in two or three dental appointments. Initially, your dentist will prepare the teeth on either side of the gap by slightly shaving down and reshaping them.
Since every mouth is unique, the bridge must be created based on the precise specifications of your teeth. To ensure a perfect fit and correct bite, impressions of your teeth are taken. These will be sent to a lab where skilled technicians can construct your bridge.
Once the dentist has made sure that the bridge fits properly, it will be cemented to the natural teeth beside the gap and a pontic (false tooth) is affixed. To support the bridge, crowns are cemented onto the nearby natural teeth.
What materials are used?
Dental bridges may be made of porcelain, gold, alloys or a combination of these. Porcelain is also sometimes fused to metal for strength and aesthetics.
How do I take care of my bridge?
Just as you would with your natural teeth, make sure to thoroughly brush and floss around the bridge and surrounding teeth. You must remember to practice proper oral hygiene to prevent the build-up of bacteria on your teeth and gums.