What is a dental bridge?
A dental bridge is a type of dental restoration that connects the gap that develops when one or more teeth in a row fall out or are otherwise lost. The device functions as a bridge, linking together the natural teeth on either side of a gap with an artificial tooth or row of teeth. These adjacent teeth, called abutment teeth, support the bridge, which contains one or more artificial teeth in a row. The artificial teeth contained in a bridge are called pontics and can be made from porcelain, gold, metal alloys, or a combination of these things. When too few natural teeth remain to effectively support a bridge, the bridge may be supported by implants, rather than the natural adjacent teeth.
A dental bridge can help a person improve the appearance of their smile while also helping to improve their ability to chew comfortably and speak clearly. Dental bridges can also help support and maintain the face shape and prevent remaining teeth from drifting into misalignment, and they aid in properly and evenly distributing bite forces across the teeth. Traditional bridges rely on the teeth, or artificial teeth, immediately adjacent to the gap on both sides and are the most common kind of bridge. When there are teeth remaining on only one side of a missing tooth or short row of teeth, a cantilever bridge might be recommended. These types of bridges aren’t recommended to replace the back teeth or molars, as they don’t distribute the forces of chewing effectively and can easily damage the remaining teeth. Maryland bridges are made of an artificial tooth or row of teeth that is bonded to a metal or zirconia framework that affixes to the back of the adjacent teeth, filling in the gap with an artificial tooth. Maryland bridges are most frequently used in younger patients whose bone growth is not yet complete and who are therefore not good candidates for more-permanent dental bridges, and they are also used primarily when a front tooth is missing; like cantilever bridges, they’re not durable enough to support molars or other teeth that bear substantial force.
In order to get a dental bridge, you’ll need to have a consultation with your dentist to determine the best type of dental bridge for you. At your first treatment visit for a traditional bridge, the abutment teeth will first be prepared by removing a small amount of enamel and recontouring the teeth so they can accommodate dental crowns. Once the teeth are prepared, the dentist will make impressions of the teeth, and these impressions are sent to a lab, where they serve as models for designing and building the bridge, the pontic, and the supporting crowns. Patients receive a temporary bridge that they can wear while the bridge is being constructed so that their prepared teeth are protected during this time. Once the dental bridge is completed, this temporary bridge is removed and the new bridge is assessed and adjusted for fit. This might take a few adjustments over a handful of visits as the bridge settles into place. Once the fit has been perfected, the crowns that support the bridge are cemented into place on the abutment teeth.
Patients care for dental bridges in much the same way they’d care for their own teeth, and, with proper care, traditional dental bridges can last 15 years or more. Cantilever bridges and Maryland bridges generally have a shorter lifespan, though this is by design, as they’re intended as short-term fixes. Regardless of the type of bridge, it’s imperative to maintain the health of the oral cavity and the remaining teeth, and this can be done with twice-daily brushing and daily flossing, along with regular scheduled dental visits. Your dentist can make sure you know how to clean the area around the bridge and can check for any issues during routine examinations, helping maintain the long life and satisfactory results of your dental bridge.