All of your teeth play an important role in speaking, chewing and in maintaining proper alignment of other teeth. Tooth loss doesn’t necessarily have to occur as you age, but if you do lose teeth, they must be replaced to maintain the proper functionality of your mouth. Fortunately, there are options for correcting tooth loss. We like to call them bridges.
Dental Bridge Options
A bridge — a device used to replace missing teeth — attaches artificial teeth to adjacent natural teeth, called abutment teeth. Bridges are either permanently attached (fixed bridges), or they can be removable.
Fixed bridges are applied by either placing crowns on the abutment teeth or by bonding the artificial teeth directly to the abutment teeth. Removable bridges are attached to the teeth with metal clasps or by precision attachments.
A bridge includes false teeth, which are referred to as pontics, to replace your lost teeth and crowns for the attachment to the abutment teeth or to dental implants. Pontics can be fashioned from a variety of materials, such as porcelain, metal alloys or gold.
If you’re missing one or more teeth, you may be aware of their importance to your appearance and dental health. Your teeth work together for many daily functions-- from eating to speaking. With missing teeth, it’s difficult to do these things.
Missing teeth can and should be replaced. Fixed bridges are a great way to restore your dental health and appearance with a non-invasive procedure.
What exactly is a bridge or fixed partial denture?
A bridge (or fixed partial denture) is a device that fills the gap where teeth are absent. Fixed bridges are bonded into place and can only be removed by a dental professional. Removable bridges, as the name implies, can be taken out and cleaned. Fixed bridges offer more stability than their removable counterparts.
Types of Fixed Bridges
There are multiple types of fixed dental bridges. Here are the three primary bridge options:
Traditional or conventional bridges
are the most common among bridge types and include a crown on each side of the appliance. One or more pontics or false teeth rest in the center of the traditional bridge, between the two crowns.
include wings made of porcelain or metal that are bonded to your teeth to fix the bridge into place. The false teeth of a Maryland bridge are made from porcelain, porcelain-over-metal or resin.
A cantilever bridge
only includes one crown to hold the bridge in place. This bridge type is used when there is only one abutment tooth available beside the missing tooth.
Why do I need a bridge
Oral functionality and appearance are important reasons for wearing a bridge. A bridge helps support your lips and cheeks. The loss of a back tooth may cause your jaw to lose bone density, which can cause your mouth to sink and your face to look older.
Dental health is the most important reason for a bridge. Teeth were designed to complement each other. Unusual stresses are placed on the gums and other oral tissues when teeth are missing, causing a number of potentially harmful disorders.
Here are some of the benefits of a bridge:
Maintenance of your facial structure:
Gaps from lost teeth can cause your face to take on a sunken appearance. A bridge fills the gaps to provide support to the soft tissues of the face.
Proper distribution of bite force:
When you chew, your teeth should share the bite force needed to masticate the food. However, when a tooth is lost, some of your teeth may take on a heavier force load. A bridge absorbs some of the bite force for a more even distribution of the pressure.
Every tooth is a placeholder for the teeth that are next to it. The gap from a missing tooth can provide enough room for other nearby teeth to shift out of place. A bridge fills the gap, preventing other teeth from migrating.
Restoration of normal speech:
When you speak after losing a tooth, you may notice that it is more difficult to form your words correctly. A bridge restores the border of the teeth that is used by the tongue as you enunciate.
Decreased risk of gum disease:
Gum disease has proven to be one of the worst side effects of missing teeth and can be minimized with a bridge.
How is a traditional bridge attached?
The attachment procedure usually takes two or three appointments to complete. At the first appointment at your Melbourne, Florida dental practice, Dr. Brazdo will prepare the teeth on either side of the gap by removing a portion of the enamel and dentin.
Since the bridge must be fabricated very precisely to ensure correct bite and to match the opposing tooth, impressions of the teeth are taken and sent to a lab where the bridge will be constructed.
Fixed bridges are typically cemented to the natural teeth next to the space left by the missing tooth. A pontic ( or false tooth) replaces the lost tooth. Crowns, which are cemented onto the natural teeth, provide support for the bridge.
What materials are used?
Bridges can be constructed from gold alloys, non-precious alloys, porcelain or a combination of these materials. Porcelain is often bonded to either precious or non-precious metal.
How do I take care of my bridge?
A strict regimen of brushing and flossing will keep the bridge and surrounding teeth clean. This is of critical importance as the bridge relies on the neighboring teeth for support.
Plaque and bacteria will not cause the bridge itself to decay, but they will affect your gums and natural teeth. If the natural teeth supporting the bridge are lost, the appliance cannot remain in place.
In addition to brushing the bridge and the gums around it, it is important to floss the area between the bridge and the gums. Bacteria and food particles can become trapped there to incite gum disease. In order to floss this area, the floss must be threaded between the appliance and the gums and then moved back and forth.
If you find it cumbersome to clean this area using traditional thread floss, consider an oral irrigator. The concentrated stream of water from the device can be directed along the gum line to flush out debris resting between the bridge and the gums.
In addition to receiving a thorough cleaning, your bridge should be protected from impact damage. If you play contact sports, consider wearing a mouth guard. A mouth guard should also be worn nightly if you suffer from bruxism or nightly teeth grinding.