Not only are missing teeth a cosmetic issue, they affect your bite and your ability to chew as well. Additionally, your remaining teeth may shift out of place, eventually pulling out of their sockets, which can be quite painful. This can also lead to more serious problems, such as temporomandibular joint disorder, increased tooth decay, periodontal disease, and affect your speech as well.
A dental bridge replaces missing teeth in the same matter that a dental implant or a partial denture would. There are several types of fixed dental bridges, including conventional, cantilever, and resin-bonded. The first step in the process of receiving a dental bridge is determining which dental bridge is right for your situation.
In conventional and cantilever dental bridges, the teeth surrounding the gap must be shaped and prepared. A dental crown is then fitted over these anchoring teeth and used to hold the tooth replacement, known as a pontic, in place.
Resin-bonded dental bridges are more often used to replace front teeth. This type of bridge requires less preparation than either of the two bridges mentioned above. Resin-bonded bridges can only be used when the surrounding teeth do not have large dental fillings and the gums are healthy.
Deciding Which Dental Bridge Is Right for You
After Dr. Mabry determines that a dental bridge is the best way to replace your missing teeth, he will discuss the different types of dental bridges that may work for you. Conventional and cantilever dental bridges will involve shaping and preparing the teeth around the gap so they may serve as anchoring teeth for the bridge. If you’re missing a visible front tooth, a resin-bonded bridge will likely be used instead. These bridges require less preparation than the other two types, but may only be used in areas where the surrounding teeth are healthy, without large dental fillings.
Dr. Mabry will also discuss what materials you wish to have your dental bridge made from, depending on which dental laboratory will be making your restoration. You may be able to choose from a variety of materials, based on where your dental bridge will be placed and whether or not you suffer from other dental conditions, such as bruxism. The amount your dental insurance will cover may also play a role in this decision. In most cases, your dental bridge can be made from a combination of metal and porcelain, or metal-free materials if you suffer from metal allergies.
Creating and Placing the Dental Bridge
After the type of dental bridge you will be receiving has been determined, Dr. Mabry will take impressions and x-rays of your teeth, as well as preoperative photos. These will be used to plan and create your dental restoration. In most cases, your dental bridge will consist of two anchor crowns that will be placed over the teeth on either side of the gap in your mouth, and pontics to replace the missing teeth.
The anchoring teeth will need to be prepared before your dental bridge can be created. A small amount of local anesthetic will be applied before a small portion of the enamel is removed from these teeth in order to allow the dental crown to be properly fitted. If the two teeth are broken or worn down, or if they are not healthy, they may need to be treated before this can be accomplished.
Once your anchor teeth have been prepared, impressions of these teeth as well as the gap will be taken. This forms a model that will be used to create your dental bridge, ensuring that your restoration will fit comfortably and easily into the gap. It also helps to prevent future dental problems. While you wait the six to eight weeks for your permanent dental bridge to be created, you will be given a temporary bridge. Once your permanent bridge is ready, you will return to our office so that the bridge may be fixed into place.
Caring for Your Dental Bridge Properly
After your bridge has been put into place, you will be given a list of care procedures to follow. These ensure that your dental bridge lasts as long as possible, and are intended to help keep your remaining teeth and gums healthy. You will be provided with a special flossing instrument to use between the pontics, as well as on the underlying gums and around the bridge. To best prevent plaque buildup or bacterial damage, this should be used every day. Dr. Mabry may also recommend a special toothpaste or advise you on your brushing technique.
Once in place, Dr. Mabry will need to regularly check your dental bridge to ensure it hasn’t loosened or become damaged. You will need to keep a regular schedule of annual or bi-annual visits to our office so that your bridge can be properly checked for discoloration and damage. When well taken care of, a fixed dental bridge can last for between five to 10 years. If you do notice any damage between visits, contact our office right away so that the bridge can be repaired or replaced as necessary.