Dental bridges are extremely common, but what are dental bridges? A dental bridge extends across the gap created by one or more missing teeth. If properly fitted, a bridge should create a natural looking restoration. The bridge is anchored to the teeth on either side of the gap (these are called the abutment teeth). The space between the abutment teeth is filled by one or more false teeth, and each false tooth is called a pontic. The pontic is firmly attached to the restorations for the abutment teeth, which are crowned. Dental bridges can be made out of different materials, including metal alloys covered in porcelain, gold, or ceramic. Although the abutment to dental bridges can be natural teeth, they can also be supported by implants. Certain kinds of bridges only need one abutment tooth for support.
Perhaps a better question is this: “What can dental bridges do for you?” The answer is quite a lot, as bridges can help your smile in the following ways:
- Make it easier to chew a larger variety foods, and to speak properly
- Support your cheeks and lips, helping maintain the correct shape of your face
- Protect your remaining teeth by distributing the biting force more evenly
- Prevent your remaining teeth from drifting into gaps left by missing teeth
- Help put a smile back on your face
If you need a dental bridge, it’s likely to be one of three kinds. These are:
- Ordinary bridges that require an abutment tooth on either side of the missing tooth, with one or more pontics attached in-between. These are the most popular kinds of bridges, and are extremely stable.
- Cantilever bridges that only require one abutment tooth adjacent to the gap which is then attached to the pontic.
- Maryland bridge which is normally a metal framework consisting of one or two wings which fit across the back of the tooth. These wings are bonded onto the abutment teeth with one or more pontics in between. The metal framework can be covered with porcelain or a composite material. Maryland bridges can also be made out of all ceramic materials. The advantage of a Maryland bridge is that it doesn’t really require the abutment teeth to be modified in any way, but these types of bridges do have a tendency to pop off occasionally and be re-bonded to the teeth.
Now that we’ve defined the types of bridges, we can move on to the procedure involved in having a dental bridge fitted. During the first dental visit, the abutment teeth are prepared. To allow room for the crown to be constructed, a certain amount of tooth material must be removed. Your dentist will remove the minimal amount of tooth material necessary to accommodate and position the bridge. But unless you’re receiving a Maryland bridge, the teeth must be prepared as otherwise these abutment crowns will be far too bulky. Next, an impression is taken of your teeth and sent to the dental laboratory. You’ll be fitted with a temporary bridge while your permanent bridge is being constructed. A temporary bridge isn’t as strong as a finished restoration, and is likely to be purely for cosmetic purposes, so care needs to be taken not to break it during this time. Once the laboratory receives your impressions, they are cast and used to construct your bridge.
If you are having a large dental bridge fitted, the laboratory may return the framework for fitting before it is completed. This helps ensure the final bridge fits perfectly. If the finished bridge doesn’t fit perfectly, it will be returned to the dental laboratory for further customization to ensure a proper fit. Once the bridge fits perfectly, it will be permanently cemented into place.
You’ll need to take care of your new bridge, and must brush and floss it thoroughly, especially underneath the pontic area. You’ll be given instructions on how to do this and the correct tools to use. It’s possible to buy special floss threaders and small interdental brushes designed to make this task easier. With a little care, an average dental bridge can last up to ten years. If you have further questions about dental bridges or how to care for them, ask Dr. Penchas or another member of his dental team.