A bridge consists of a fabricated tooth or teeth (called a ‘pontic’) that fills the space where one or more teeth have been lost, and is anchored in place on either side by crowns (also known as ‘caps’) placed over existing teeth that have been prepared so the crowns can sit on top and anchor the bridge. Dental bridges are an alternative to dental implants for tooth replacement, or may be used in conjunction with dental implants to create a dental bridge.
Process for Dental Bridges
Bridges are usually completed in two appointments. During the first visit for a dental bridge, the ‘abutment’ teeth, or the teeth on either side of the gap, are prepared. This preparation involves removing a portion of enamel and reshaping the tooth to allow room for a crown to be placed over them.
After this step is complete, impressions of the teeth are made, which serve as a model from which the bridge, pontic, and crowns will be made by a dental lab. Your 1st Family Dental dentist will make a temporary bridge for you to wear to protect the ‘prepared’ teeth and gums until it is time to return for the permanent bridge.
At the second office visit, your dentist will remove the temporary bridge, and the permanent bridge will be fitted over the prepared teeth. Your dentist may need to check and adjust the bridge for fit, and follow up visits may be needed as well to ensure your bridge is fitting comfortably, and your bite feels natural. If the bridge is fixed, your dentist may use temporary cement to hold it in place to make sure it is fitting properly, and will then permanently cement it into place after a couple of weeks.
Advantages of Dental Bridges:
- Durability: With proper care and maintenance, dental bridges can last a long time, often longer than partial dentures.
- Look & Feel: Bridges often have a more natural look and feel than removable dentures. Bridges also typically require fewer adjustments than dentures.
- Affordability: Bridges typically cost less than dental implants. However, the cost of maintaining and repairing a bridge may accumulate over time.
- Maintenance: Bridges require extra care and maintenance, including cleaning under the pontic. Patients with fixed bridges still need to visit the dentist for regular exams to ensure the structural integrity of the bridge and monitor the conditions of the anchor teeth.
- Durability: While more durable than removable dentures, fixed bridges should be treated with care. It is important to avoid chewing on very hard, sticky or crunchy foods where the bridge is located. Repairing or replacing bridges can become costly over time.
- Impact of teeth next to the bridge: Preparing a tooth means shaving it down, which impacts the overall structure and health of the tooth and can cause pain and discomfort. This also increases the chances of future problems with those teeth.