Extensive tooth decay, broken teeth, and even some congenital issues can leave a person with spaces where a tooth or teeth should be. No one wants to have a gap in their smile, and dental bridges may help. Dental bridges are an excellent solution for those with missing teeth.
Undergoing a dental bridge procedure is not for everyone. Learning as much as possible about this treatment option can help a person determine if it is the right choice for them.
What is a Dental Bridge?
Whether a person is missing one tooth or several, dental bridges can help. Dental bridges are a permanent alternative to dentures and can look as natural as real teeth. A dental bridge is a prosthetic piece placed in the gap where teeth used to be.
However, to qualify for a dental bridge, there must be two strong teeth remaining on each side of the gap. These teeth are used as anchors to hold the dental bridge in place.
Dental Bridge Types
There are several types of dental bridges available. These include the traditional, cantilever, Maryland, and implant-supported dental bridge.
The most common type of dental bridge is the traditional one. Traditional dental bridges have one prosthetic tooth or teeth affixed to dental crowns. These dental crowns are cemented to the real teeth on each side of the gap, or abutment teeth.
Because this type of dental bridge requires a person to have two teeth to attach prosthetics to, it is not the best option for everyone. These bridges require the enamel to be removed from the abutment teeth, which can make some people nervous. However, they are also extremely comfortable and do an excellent job of redistributing bite force.
Cantilever bridges are an excellent dental bridge option for those who have only one strong tooth remaining to support the prosthetic tooth or teeth. However, these bridges are not the best option for missing molars, as the bite force could dislodge them easily. These are an excellent option for those who are missing an incisor but do not want to have a crown put on one of their front teeth.
Maryland bridges, or resin-bonded bridges, are similar to traditional dental bridges in that they require the use of two abutment teeth. While traditional bridges use crowns to secure the prosthetics, Maryland dental bridges use a porcelain or metal frame that is bonded to the back of the supporting teeth. The benefit to this option is that there is minimal need to remove enamel from the abutment teeth.
Unfortunately, these are not ideal for those who do not have two abutment teeth. Additionally, the attached framework of porcelain or metal can discolor and detach over time.
Implant-supported dental bridges do not require the support of any abutment teeth. This is an excellent option for those who do not have teeth next to the space made by a missing tooth or for anyone who does not want to remove the enamel of existing teeth. However, there cannot be too many implants positioned near each other, as they are more likely to fail or be rejected by the body.
Dental implants are also a more invasive procedure than other dental bridge options. Two surgeries are needed, one to surgically place the implant into the jawbone and one to place the bridge. Because surgical implants need to heal, this procedure can take months to complete.
Do you Need a Dental Bridge?
Having a missing tooth or missing teeth can negatively impact a person’s life in several ways. Missing teeth can inhibit a person’s ability to chew food and increase the likelihood of choking. It can also cause surrounding teeth to shift, damaging nearby teeth and gums. If the missing teeth are visible, a person may feel self-conscious about smiling.
Dental bridges can help in various ways. Those who choose dental bridges can look forward to the following:
- Resorting their smile
- Restoring proper speech and pronunciation
- Regaining their ability to chew
- Preserving the shape of their face
- Preventing their remaining teeth from shifting out of place
Many people choose dentures as an alternative to dental implants. Dentures are prosthetic teeth that can be removed for cleaning and sleeping. A partial denture would fill a small gap created by missing teeth, similar to what dental implants do.
However, dentures are not as comfortable as dental bridges. They can look unnatural, change speech, and cause difficulty chewing. Dentures are still recommended in some circumstances, and a dentist can help determine which is the best option.
What to Expect from a Dental Bridge Procedure
Dental bridge procedures begin with the dentist examining a person’s teeth and taking x-rays. They determine whether the abutment teeth are strong enough to support a dental bridge and ensure there is no infection or tooth decay present. If they are, the dentist will address these issues before starting the dental bridge procedure.
Next, the dentist will prepare the abutment teeth. This may involve removing enamel for crowns depending on the type of dental bridge. The dentist will then take measurements and impressions for the prosthetic tooth or teeth and use a shade card to match them to the patient’s existing teeth. A dental lab will create a bridge based on this information.
While the lab creates the new crown and bridge, the patient will receive a temporary bridge. The temporary bridge will not look as nice or be as secure as the final product, but it will hold the space while the patient waits. Once the permanent bridge is ready, the dentist will make some minor fitting adjustments to ensure it looks natural before bonding it in place.
The Bottom Line
Having missing teeth does not have to interrupt a person’s life. Dental bridges can restore a person’s bite and smile to what it should be. Dental bridges are incredibly sturdy and can last many years if they are cared for properly, so a person never has to live with the negative consequences of missing teeth.