Dental bridges literally bridge the gap created by one or more missing teeth. They are made up of two crowns for the teeth on either side of the gap (called abutment teeth) and false tooth/teeth in between.
Dental bridges are supported by natural teeth or implants. The false teeth are called pontics and can be made from gold, alloys, porcelain or a combination of these materials.
The benefits of dental bridges are: they restore a smile, ability to properly chew and speak, to maintain the shape of the face, they distribute the patient's bite properly by replacing missing teeth and prevent remaining teeth from drifting out of position.
There are three main types of bridges available:
- Traditional bridges. They involve creating a crown for the tooth or implant on either side of the missing tooth, with a pontic in between. They are the most common type of bridge and are made of either porcelain fused to metal or ceramics.
- Cantilever bridges. They are used when there are adjacent teeth on only one side of the missing tooth or teeth.
- Maryland bonded bridges (called a resin-bonded bridge or a Maryland bridge). They are made of plastic teeth and gums supported by a metal framework. Metal wings on each side of the bridge are bonded to existing teeth.
The abutment teeth are prepared during the first visit and preparation involves recontouring these teeth by removing a portion of enamel to allow room for a crown to be placed over them.
Next, impressions of the patient’s teeth are made, which serve as a model from which the bridge, pontic, and crowns will be made by a dental laboratory.
The patient's dentist will make a temporary bridge for patient wear to protect the exposed teeth and gums while the bridge is being made.
A temporary bridge will be removed during the second visit and the new permanent bridge will be checked and adjusted, as necessary, to achieve a proper fit. Maybe multiple visits may be required to check the fit of the metal framework and bite and this is dependent on each individual's case.
If the dental bridge is a fixed (permanent) bridge, the dentist may temporarily cement it in place for a couple of weeks to make sure it is fitting properly and after a couple weeks, the bridge is permanently cemented into place.
Until the patient is accustomed to the bridge, he/she must eat soft foods that have been cut into small pieces but with time, eating will be easier. Also speaking will be clear if the teeth were missing in the front or anterior areas.
The cost of dental bridges varies depending on the type of bridge selected and the area of the country in which the procedure is performed. Dental insurance will typically pay a percentage of the fee depending on the individual dental plan.
Dental bridges can last 5 to 15 years and even longer but with good oral hygiene and regular prophylaxis, it is not unusual for the life span of a fixed bridge to be over 10 years.
It is important to keep remaining teeth healthy and strong as the success of the bridge (depending on the type selected) depends on the solid foundation offered by the surrounding teeth. Also, brushing twice a day and flossing daily helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease that can lead to tooth loss.