Dental bridges do just that – create a bridge over a gap you have caused by a missing tooth or several missing teeth. A traditional bridge is made from a crown on the teeth on either side of the gap between teeth. Between teeth is an artificial tooth known as a pontic.
A tooth bridge helps fill in the space that occurs between teeth when one or several are missing. It is made from a crown that fits the tooth on each side of the space. These teeth are called abutment teeth. Then there are fake teeth that are suspended between called pontics. Bridges can be made from a variety of materials, including gold, an alloy of metal, or porcelain. Most bridges that are visible when you smile or talk will be of porcelain so they are not obvious.
What can a bridge do for you?
- they keep your teeth in place and keep them from drifting
- they keep your face balanced
- they help your bite be balanced and make chewing easier
- they give you back a full smile
- they make it possible to speak correctly
Types of a tooth bridge
There are a few types of tooth bridges. No matter what type you choose, a bridge requires a support tooth or teeth
- A traditional bridge is where a crown for the teeth on either side of the gap is made and a pontic tooth is set in between. These are the most common kind of bridges.
- A cantilever bridge is made when the patient only has support teeth on one side of the gap. A bridge like this is not very common and is not recommended for molars due to the stresses that occur during chewing.
- A Maryland bridge or Maryland bonded bridge is made from any of a number of materials like porcelain, or porcelain fused to metal, or even plastic. The artificial teeth and gums are supported by a metal framework, or in some cases a porcelain one, that is affixed to the abutment teeth instead of using a crown. This bridge is also used when you have teeth on either side of the gap.
- Implant-supported bridges – This type of dental bridge is ideal for when you have a large space that needs to be filled. A fake tooth known as an implant is placed on the outer edges and either additional implants support the bridge or a pontic tooth is used between two crowns that are on the outer implants. This type of bridge is very sturdy but it also is the most invasive, since the implants have to be inserted into the jaw and then the bridge has to be attached.
What happens when a dentist affixes a bridge?
After you visit the dentist and get his or her advice diagnosis or treatment plan for a bridge, you will have a visit during which your dentist will prep your teeth starting by making the abutment teeth ready by removing a little enamel from the teeth on either side to affix the dental crowns that will hold the bridge. Your dentist will then make an impression of your teeth to craft the bridge, pontic tooth or teeth, and crowns on. You will likely get a temporary bridge to go home with until you can get the permanent one affixed. This temporary bridge will protect your teeth and gums from any potential damage.
When you return to get your bridge affixed, you will have the temporary bridge removed and then the new bridge will be installed. Your dentist will make sure that it fits correctly and doesn’t hit the gums negatively. You may need to go back for a follow-up visit to make sure that your metal framework is correct and that your bite is aligned correctly. It is cemented onto your teeth so it is solid and won’t slip.
Caring for Dental Bridges
It is important that after you get your tooth bridge you take good care of your teeth and bridge. Establishing a good oral hygiene routine will be essential. You will want to make sure that your natural teeth are strong so that they can support the bridge and so that your teeth won’t decay underneath the dental work. Proper care will also ensure you don’t suffer from gum disease under the bridge.
This means brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing. It will be a little tricky to floss your teeth around the bridge now, but your dentist or dental assistant will be happy to show you how. You may also want to consider a water irrigator to help get food particles out from around the appliance.
After you get home, you will want to eat soft food or cut food into small bites while the bridge settles in and you get used to having it in your mouth. And, you will need to keep your regular dental appointments so you can not only keep your teeth professionally clean but also so your dentist can keep track of your progress.
How long do dental bridges last?
A well-made bridge that is installed by an experienced dentist will last you as much as 15 years or more. The length of time depends in part on your home care routine.
What is the difference between a bridge and an implant?
Bridges are a lightweight and minimally invasive appliance that is more affordable than an implant. The cost of a bridge will depend on what material you choose to go with and the type of bridge you choose. If you have to have additional surgery or treatment for tooth decay and/or gum disease, this can add to the cost. The cost can also vary by region. Depending on your dental insurance plan, you may get partial coverage or full coverage of your bridge, since they are medically necessary. A traditional bridge can cost as little as $2,000 up to an implant-supported bridge that is $5,000 to $10,000.
Dental implants may or may not be covered by dental insurance, but that is something that more plans cover now. They are also a permanent solution, whereas bridges will likely need to be replaced at some point. And, with implants, you don’t have to have any of your natural teeth altered to receive the tooth bridge which can lead to them getting weak due to losing some enamel. But, an implant is major surgery and may involve bone grafts and several visits to complete.
Dental bridges are a common dental appliance used to help fill in gaps in your teeth so you can have a proper bite and chew correctly. There are four main kinds of tooth bridge to choose from and a variety of materials that you can use. When you partner with your dentist to make that decision, he or she will give you the medical advice you need and help craft a bridge that will be the right solution for you and your mouth. With proper care, your new bridge could last you 15 years and restore your smile.
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