Dental bridges actually fill in the gaps caused by missing teeth. When you lose a tooth, the dentist can make a bridge to fill in with an artificial tooth between the two existing teeth. Crowns are made for the two teeth on either side of the missing tooth (or teeth) - these are called abutment teeth. Then, between the two crowns, the dentist creates a false tooth (or more than one) that is held in place by the abutment teeth. The false tooth is called a pontic and can be made of porcelain, ceramic, gold, alloys or some combination. The most natural bridges use porcelain as the outside surface.
Using a dental bridge to “fill the gaps” has a positive impact on the patient for several reasons.
- It makes eating and maintaining good nutrition easier.
- It keeps you talking like your normal self, preventing the hissing and whistling that sometimes happens through missing teeth.
- It maintains the position of the other teeth, which have a tendency to shift if there is a tooth missing for any period of time.
- It maintains the facial shape and prevents loss of muscle tone around the mouth that can be caused by large gaps between the teeth.
- It keeps your bite force distributed properly by providing an even biting surface.
- It restores your smile!
How Bridges are made:
It will take several visits to get your bridge installed.
First, the teeth will be prepared to receive crowns. The dentist will recontour the teeth to remove some of the outer enamel so the crown can fit over the top. She will also take impressions of the area of your mouth where the bridge will be installed to become the model the dental laboratory will use to create the false tooth, crowns and bridge itself. Your dentist will then give you a temporary bridge to wear until the final bridge is finished. This will protect your recontoured teeth and the surrounding gums while you wait. Your new permanent bridge will be ready, probably, within a couple of weeks. When you return to the dentist, she will check the fit of the new bridge in your mouth, and make any necessary adjustments. You may need to come back more than once to get the fit just right, so the bridge feels natural and comfortable and your teeth are hitting properly when you bite. Once the dentist confirms that your bridge is properly fitted and all necessary adjustments are made, your permanent bridge will be cemented into place.
Three Types of Bridges
There are three types of bridges. Your dentist will advise you on the one that will work best for you.
- The first is called a traditional bridge. This is the type describe earlier - two crowns on either side of a false tooth, called a pontic. These are the most commonly used bridges. They are usually made of porcelain which is fused either to metal or to ceramic material.
- The second type of bridge is called a cantilever bridge. This type of bridge is used when there are teeth on only one side of the missing tooth, meaning it is anchored to a crown on only one side.
- The third is a Maryland bonded bridge (also known as a resin-bonded bridge or a Maryland bridge). This type is made of plastic teeth and gums supported by a metal framework. The bridge is then bonded to the existing teeth on either side with metal wings.
Caring for your Bridge
The best way to care for your bridge is to take good care of the rest of your teeth. Keeping your remaining teeth in good condition will prevent any further tooth loss. You should brush and floss your bridge teeth just as you would all of your other teeth. If you have any problems flossing the teeth in your bridge, your dentist or hygienist can give you some tips. Your dental bridge should last between 5 and 15 years, sometimes longer, if you practice good oral hygiene and seek regular dental care.
Dental bridges are usually covered, to some extent, by dental insurance. Dental plans rarely cover the entire cost, so you will have some expense over what your insurance will pay. Costs vary across the country, and dentist to dentist.