All teeth play an important role in speaking, chewing and in maintaining proper alignment of other teeth. Tooth loss doesn’t necessarily have to occur with age, but if some teeth are missing, they often must be replaced to maintain proper function of your mouth. Fortunately, there are several options for correcting tooth loss.
What exactly is a bridge or fixed partial denture?
A bridge, also known as a fixed partial denture, is a device which fills the gap where teeth are missing. Fixed bridges are held in place using a high strength dental adhesive or cement and can only be removed by a dental professional. In addition to providing increased chewing surfaces, a bridge also enhances one’s appearance by filling in the space(s) where teeth are missing.
Another option to consider for replacing missing teeth or where a bridge is not an possible, (i.e. if an area where a tooth is missing does not have teeth in front and in back of the space) would be a dental implant.
Reasons for a Bridge:
- Fill the space of missing teeth
- Prevent remaining teeth from drifting out of position
- Maintain facial shape
- Restore chewing and speaking ability
- Upgrade from a removable partial denture to a permanent appliance
Two appointments are usually necessary for a bridge procedure. During the first visit, the two anchoring teeth are prepared for the crowns that the artificial tooth or teeth will be connected to. Next, a mold or digital scan is made for the bridge which will be customized to fit those teeth and space(s) where any teeth are missing.
A temporary bridge is then inserted an worn for approximately two weeks while the permanent bridge is being fabricated. At the second appointment, the temporary bridge is removed and the permanent bridge is carefully fitted onto the anchoring teeth. Once any final adjustments are completed, the bridge is then cemented and stays in place permanently. There are no parts that are removed and/or replaced.
Why Do I Need A Bridge?
Maximizing the amount of chewing surface area and appearance are important reasons for having a bridge fabricated. Aside from chewing and speaking, another function our teeth serve is to provide support to our cheeks and lips. Missing teeth can lead to the collapse or sinking of lips and cheeks thus contributing to premature aging and an unhealthy, emaciated facial appearance.
A dental bridge helps support the lips and cheeks providing additional chewing surfaces and a more healthy, youthful appearance. Additionally, replacing a missing tooth with a bridge could prevent adjacent teeth from shifting into the space or a tooth from the opposing arch from supra-erupting which could lead to eventually having a tooth on the opposing arch removed.
By nature, teeth are designed to complement each other. When teeth are missing, unusual stresses are placed on the gums and other teeth, causing a number of other problems. Teeth that are not designed to absorb the heavy forces of chewing are used to compensate for missing teeth, therefore creating premature wear or breakdown of the remaining teeth. Additionally, altering speech patterns can be avoided by replacing missing teeth as one important function our teeth serve is pronunciation of words when we speak.
How is a Bridge Attached?
Fabrication of a bridge usually takes two visits but could require more. The adjacent teeth that will serve as the abutment, or rest, teeth that the bridge will “sit” on, are prepared at the first appointment. A digital scan or impression is made of the teeth after the preparations are completed. It is from this scan, or impression, that a dental lab will use to custom fabricate the bridge.
A temporary bridge will be fabricated and worn while the lab is fabricating the permanent bridge. When the permanent bridge is received at our office, a second appointment is scheduled to remove the temporary bridge and check the fit of the permanent one. Once a proper fit is verified by the dentist, the bridge is then cemented in place permanently.
What Materials Are Used?
Bridges can be constructed from gold alloys, non-precious alloys, ceramic, porcelain, or a combination of these materials. Porcelain is often bonded to either a precious or non-precious metal substructure.
Even though it is slightly more economical, this has become a less popular option as the margin of the bridge can appear dark as the gum line recedes over time. All-ceramic has become the preferred choice of material for a dental bridge due to its high strength, more natural appearance and is less likely to chip from the forces of chewing over time.
How Do I Take Care of My Bridge
A bridge is no different than any natural tooth in terms of how to take care of it. We recommend flossing and brushing for two minutes twice a day. Several items are available on the market to assist with flossing underneath a bridge to maintain the supporting teeth and it is imperative that this be done for the success and longevity of the dental bridge.