Dental bridges are a type of restoration designed to replace missing teeth. They look like a set of 3-4 dental crowns that are fused tightly side-by-side, creating a single device. While the ends of the bridge are functional crowns, the “teeth” between them are called “pontic” crowns and are suspended over the space left behind by your missing teeth.
Generally speaking, bridges are typically used to replace 1-2 teeth at a time. Except for implant-supported bridges, which can restore 3-4 teeth.
Candidates for Dental Bridges
Traditional dental bridges are supported by natural teeth. In order to be a candidate for the treatment, your abutment teeth will need to be healthy and structurally sound. A bridge can add additional reinforcement to teeth with larger fillings that might otherwise require a crown later on.
Bridges do not work well in cases where the supporting teeth have gum disease or bone loss. Additionally, if you have “virgin” teeth on either side of your missing one, a less invasive alternative would be to place a single dental implant, as opposed to altering the structure of your supporting, intact teeth.
The Dental Bridge Process
Getting a dental bridge is similar to what you can expect a dental crown treatment to look like. The process takes place over two visits, with an initial prep appointment and a final placement about two weeks later.
During your prep visit, we’ll adjust the shape of your supporting teeth so that the end of the bridge will fit over them properly. Local anesthetic is used to ensure your comfort. Then we’ll take an impression and send it to our lab. In the meantime, we’ll apply temporary crowns over your prepped teeth. Once the permanent bridge is delivered, we’ll try it in, make any adjustments, then bond it permanently into place using a special cement.
Most of our bridges are made out of porcelain or zirconia, as these materials are extremely durable and can be matched to your natural tooth shade. We’ll specifically have your bridge designed in a way that is shaped (tooth size, length, and width) to mimic your existing oral anatomy.
Are Bridges Removable?
No. Unlike partial dentures that you take out at night, dental bridges are permanently anchored to your supporting teeth. That’s why home care is so essential.
Why Should I Replace My Missing Tooth?
Any time a tooth goes missing or needs to be extracted, it creates an extra space in your bite. Just like books on a bookshelf, taking one off can lead to a chain reaction in its neighbors. Over time, the adjacent teeth will begin to tilt and lean out of alignment. The opposing teeth can, too! Not only is misalignment an aesthetic concern, but it can also lead to irregular wear patterns, broken dental work, and TMJ disorder.
How to Care for a Dental Bridge
The home care process for dental bridges requires a couple of extra steps to ensure your supporting teeth stay healthy. Since a toothbrush cannot access the areas under your bridge or those sides of your abutment teeth, you’ll need to use a floss threader to reach those surfaces. Simply weave the floss underneath, glide it back and forth under the bridge, and then floss normally against the inside of those supporting teeth. Some people prefer “super floss” which is a thicker, tufted strand that is good for wider spaces.
Find flossing difficult? Investing in a water flosser makes it easy to access spaces under bridges (as well as in gum pockets, around implants, braces, and more!) Just direct the steady stream of water where you would floss to flush the dental bacteria away.
Bridges for Dental Implants
If you need to replace more than 1-2 teeth at a time, an implant-supported dental bridge may be your best solution. Since implants are extremely durable, they can support the weight of multiple teeth. A pair of implants can anchor a 3-4 “tooth” (unit) dental bridge, eliminating the need to wear a partial denture.
If You Need to Update a Dental Bridge
As with other types of restorations, your bridge needs constant care to keep it intact. Over time, issues like recurring tooth decay, clenching/grinding, or periodontal disease may warrant removing your bridge and replacing it with something else. On average, a well-maintained bridge usually lasts anywhere from 10-15 years or more.