What is a dental bridge?
As it sounds, a dental bridge is a custom-made replacement tooth (or teeth) designed to fill a missing tooth’s space. They require putting a crown on either side of the space and fusing an additional crown in the place of the missing tooth. They are made to mimic the shape, function, and look of your natural teeth. Dental bridges have been a common practice of modern dentistry and are still performed. Most bridges are composed of porcelain attached to a metal structure to provide support. Other times, dental bridges are designed with something called “all-ceramic,” a combination of porcelain and other materials that are similar in appearance. Once a dental bridge is cemented into place, it is not meant to come back out.
Why should I get a dental bridge?
As little as they may seem, every tooth in your mouth plays a significant role. Whether it is there to help keep the other teeth in line, keep you healthy, or help you chew your food, each one is needed in one way or another. And when one is lost, if it is not replaced, that gap can lead to bigger problems and even threaten your overall health. Here are a couple of the significant issues that missing teeth can cause:
- Bone loss: One of the biggest causes of jaw bone loss is missing teeth. This is because your teeth help stimulate and support muscle health. Therefore, if you lose some teeth, the jaw bone that once supported them is not getting the stimulation it needs. And just like unused muscle becomes atrophied, the same goes for the muscles/bones in your mouth when the teeth that used to be there stimulating them are no longer there
- Shifting Teeth: Even though your teeth are attached to your jawbone, they will tend to shift over time if there are gaps between teeth. Erasing time and money you might have spent on braces
- Difficulty Chewing: We use our teeth every day for chewing our food. Something as unconscious as biting an apple can become difficult if you lose some of the teeth that help break it down
- Face Structure: As unrelated as it might seem, your teeth help support the structure of your face. Because your teeth help support and stimulate your jaw bone, if you lose teeth and that bone becomes atrophied, it can give the appearance of a sunken jaw and even cause someone to look more aged
Those are just a couple of the issues you would not want to look forward to if you decided not to have missing teeth replaced and taken care of. This is why it is crucial when going over your options that you consult with your dentist to decide what replacement is best for your teeth and make sure to bridge any gaps. Dental bridges will not only help restore your bite but help keep the natural shape of your face
What are the types of dental bridges?
There are four different types of dental bridges. Depending on your mouth and the teeth you need to replace, your dentist may recommend a specific one that fits you best. The four different types are:
- Traditional Bridges: These are the most common type of dental bridges. Composed of porcelain fused to metal, all-metal like gold, or ceramic, they consist of one or more fake teeth called a pontic. This is held in place by dental crowns on either side. In the procedure of this dental bridge, the dentist will file and shape the two teeth next to the fake tooth to help ensure that the crowns fit properly. A traditional bridge is strong, durable, and with proper care, will last a long time. It is typical for this type of bridge to be used when restoring your back teeth, such as molars and premolars
- Cantilever Bridges: It is similar to a traditional bridge. However, the patient must have at least one natural tooth next to the missing tooth to have this bridge placed. Only one natural tooth is prepared for a crown. A fake tooth (pontic) is connected and supported by a single crown on the natural tooth. This bridge is usually used only in the area of your front teeth because they are not strong enough to support molars and the forces that are placed on your back teeth
- Maryland Bridges: These are also referred to as adhesive bridges and are not as invasive as traditional bridges. This type of bridge supports a fake tooth (pontic) with a metal or ceramic framework. Made out of porcelain, these bridges have “wings” that bond the adjacent teeth helping keep the bridge stable. This style is excellent because the porcelain used looks almost identical to the color of your natural teeth. What makes the Maryland bridge less invasive is the fact that less tooth removal is necessary because this bridge can attach directly to the back of the teeth next to the missing tooth. This dental bridge is used to help restore front teeth (incisors). You will not see them in place of molars or canines because canines are extremely important to your bite and Maryland bridges tend to shift or loosen easily
- Implant-Supported Bridges: This style of bridge is entirely supported by dental implants rather than dental crowns or metal frameworks. Usually, this type is used to restore back teeth such as your premolars or molars. An implant-supported bridge is typically ideal for people who have at least three missing teeth
How do I care for a dental bridge?
Bridges are made to hold up and last. However, you have to do your part in keeping your mouth healthy and clean so that the bridge continues to work properly and does its job. Here are a couple of reminders that you should always be doing:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day (or after every meal) and floss
- Make sure to always clean between your teeth and under the bridge
- Regularly visit your dentist for your cleanings and checkups
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet