What is used to get across a gap -- a bridge of course! A dental bridge spans the gap between one or more missing teeth giving you a better smile.
Your teeth not only help you chew and speak correctly, but also contribute substantially to your smile and overall appearance (your teeth give form to your face and without them, your facial features can be significantly affected.) If lost teeth are not restored, other teeth often shift, causing crooked teeth, leading to cavities and gum disease. Dental bridges restore potentially compromised oral health to full function.
A bridge is a special dental appliance used to restore missing teeth. There are several types of bridges used to span the space. The three most common types include:
- Fixed Dental Bridge - This type of bridge is cemented next to the teeth adjacent to the gap, called the "abutment" teeth. A replacement tooth, called a pontic, is attached to crowns that provide added support and cover the abutment teeth. Fixed bridges can only be removed by the dentist.
- Removable Partial Dentures - When the span is large, your dentist may suggest this type of bridge. A removable partial denture fastens to natural teeth with clasps or attachments. This type of appliance can be removed for cleaning and is less expensive than the fixed type. However, it's usually not as durable as the fixed bridge.
- Dental Implant Supported Bridges - When implants have been placed in spaces that have no teeth, they serve as "abutments" or anchors for a bridge.
An assortment of materials are available depending on the function and appearance. Porcelain, tooth-colored acrylics, gold alloys, and alloys made from non-precious metals all provide important restorative qualities along with making your smile the way you want it.
Normally at least two visits are needed for preparing the teeth, custom-designing the bridge, and making adjustments for proper fit and comfort.
With bridges, extra care must be given to your gums and teeth. Bridges add more stress to existing teeth and must be supported by healthy gums. Otherwise, these key teeth are susceptible to decay and affect the bridges.
Brushing twice a day and flossing daily along with regular dental visits are essential to good oral hygiene. Flossing is often easier by using floss threaders that help to remove cavity-causing bacteria between the dental bridge and adjacent teeth.
Because bridges are intricate and sometimes difficult to clean, your dentist might suggest a special instrument that helps in caring for your teeth. Similar in design to professional dental cleaning instruments, it's made of tiny filaments that rotate to "swoosh" into the crevices between the teeth and below the gum line. Ask your dentist about this special cleaning device.
With good oral hygiene, a fixed dental bridge can last eight to ten years or more and provide years of service enhancing your smile and appearance and your oral health.
By Danine M. Fresch, DDS