Over 178 million Americans are missing at least a single tooth. It’s tempting sometimes to save the expense and hassle of replacing a missing tooth, but that can have negative implications for your overall dental health. A dental bridge is a great way to replace a missing tooth or teeth and improve your smile.
What is a dental bridge?
A bridge is a dental prosthetic that “bridges” the gap of your missing tooth/teeth. The bridge consists of crowns on the healthy teeth on each side of the gap (these are also called the abutment teeth). Between the crowns is an artificial tooth or teeth (called pontics) that replace the missing teeth. Bridges are anchored by the healthy abutment teeth or by dental implants. Dr. Wiitala prefers porcelain for the crowns and artificial teeth because porcelain closely mimics the translucence and light reflection of natural tooth enamel.
Why do I need to replace my missing teeth?
It’s tempting to put off replacing a missing tooth, particularly if it’s a molar that isn’t readily visible. But that’s a bad idea for a variety of reasons. First, teeth stay put due to the pressure placed on them by neighboring teeth. When a tooth is missing, the adjacent teeth tend to slide over into the gap. This creates alignment and bite problems.
Here are the reasons for having a bridge replace a tooth or teeth:
- To complete your smile
- To prevent adjacent teeth from moving
- To restore chewing and biting capability
- To distribute the bite forces to not overload other teeth
- To restore your speaking diction
- To maintain the shape of your face
What is the procedure for a dental bridge?
Receiving a bridge from Dr. Wiitala involves two office visits. During your first appointment, we prepare the abutment teeth for their crowns. First, we need to make room for the crowns, so Dr. Wiitala shaves off a portion of the enamel from the healthy teeth on all sides and the top. The crowns will completely cover the natural teeth down to the gumline. We then take impressions and photos of your teeth to send to the dental lab to use when fabricating your bridge. While we are awaiting your bridge, we place a temporary bridge that we make in-house also using your impressions.
Once your bridge is finished, you return for your second appointment. Dr. Wiitala checks its fit and color match with your natural teeth. He adjusts the fit as needed. If you desire, we can place the bridge with temporary cement so that you can try out the fit for a day or two at home. Once satisfied, your bridge is permanently cemented onto your abutment teeth and you’re finished.
What are the advantages of having a dental bridge?
There are only two options for replacing a missing tooth or teeth, a bridge or a dental implant. Bridges, sometimes called partial dentures if replacing a series of missing teeth, are more affordable than implants. For most patients replacing a series of teeth with individual implants is not really feasible. Bridges also are relatively quick procedures, requiring two not overly long appointments. The implant process takes a few months.
The goal of having a bridge is to replace one or more missing teeth. This completes your smile once again, and it gives you the benefits described above for replacing missing teeth. It keeps your adjacent teeth in place and allows you to eat a full diet.
What are the disadvantages to dental bridges?
Compared to a dental implant, replacing a single tooth or even two teeth with a bridge has certain disadvantages. Bridges are more fragile than implants, as they can break when the person eats really hard foods. They can also dislodge when eating sticky foods (although Dr. Wiitala can cement the bridge back down should this happen).
The other main disadvantage to a bridge is its lifespan. Dental implants are generally considered to be lifetime replacements, meaning they will typically last the remainder of the patient’s life. Bridges usually last from 5 to 15 years, depending on the patient’s choice of foods and home hygiene. They can last longer, but most people will need a bridge replaced at least once.
Other types of bridges
The bridge we described above is a traditional bridge. Dr. Wiitala also uses two other types of bridges depending on patient need.
- Cantilever bridges — When there are healthy teeth on just one side of the missing teeth, a cantilever bridge is used. Two crowns are placed on the one side and the bridge in this case is more akin to a balcony.
- Maryland bridges — These bridges are typically used on the front teeth. Maryland bridges don’t use crowns as anchors. Instead, bands are cemented to the back surfaces of the supporting teeth.
Is getting a dental bridge painful?
There really isn’t any discomfort when Dr. Wiitala is preparing your teeth for your bridge or when placing it. Local anesthetic is used when the teeth are shaved down to make room for the crowns.
How long will my bridge last?
Dental bridges have a varying lifespan from five to 15 years, but they can last longer. The health of the abutment teeth is usually the determinant. With good home hygiene, bridges can last a long time.