There are good reasons why people get dental bridges, or “fixed partial dentures.” When a dentist replaces a tooth or teeth with a bridge, she mends not only your smile but also your health.
If gaps between teeth are not filled in, or “bridged,” your face can lose its natural shape. Chewing with teeth missing can cause the force of your bite to be misdirected, too. This can make the teeth above or below the gap start to “erupt” or drift out of position. That, in turn, can make it hard to chew and speak.
So you see, a bridge does not just fill a gap: it can help you look your best, speak properly, chew correctly, and even digest food better.
Three types of dental bridges
At their most basic, bridges have three parts. First, there are the two crowns that go on the two teeth on each side of the gap. Next, there is the false tooth or teeth that fill the gap. Dental pros call these false teeth “pontics.” A pontic can be made from many materials such as gold or metal alloys, ceramics, porcelain, or some mix of these.
Bridges come in three main types. The basic type described above is called “traditional.” This type is the most common. In most cases, they are made of ceramic or porcelain fused to metal.
When there are no teeth on one side of the gap, a “cantilever” bridge may be used. This type is held in place by a brace on just one side of the gap.
When the gap to be bridged is in the front of the mouth, a “Maryland bonded bridge” may be used. This type may be called a “resin-bonded bridge.” It is made of plastic held in place by a metal frame that is bonded to the teeth on each side.
Dental pros make the three main types of bridges outside the mouth. Then, they place them in the mouth when done. They call this the indirect method. In some cases, though, dentists have been known to build a bridge inside a patient’s mouth using composite resin.
How are dental bridges made?
Your dentist will complete a dental restoration with a bridge in several steps. She does this over the course of several visits. First, the teeth that anchor both ends of the bridge must be prepared. These must be reduced in size a bit and re-shaped for the crowns to fit over them. How much the anchor teeth need to be changed depends on the type of material that will be used for the bridge.
During the same visit, your dentist will make a mold of your teeth. The dental lab will use this to make your bridge. You’ll receive a temporary bridge, too, which will help protect you while the lab does its work.
Even if everything feels perfect to you, your dentist may only temporarily cement the bridge in place for the first few weeks until she is certain it fits as it should.
At the next visit, your dentist will remove your temporary bridge. She will also check the fit of your permanent bridge and make adjustments as needed. She may send the bridge back to the lab to make sure it fits right. Even if everything feels perfect to you, your dentist may only temporarily cement the bridge in place for the first few weeks until she is certain it fits as it should.
How to care for your new dental bridge
A lot of work goes into a dental bridge. After the dust has cleared (okay – there is not really going to be any dust…), proper care is a must to protect your investment and keep your teeth healthy.
Home dental care with a bridge is not really that much different than without a bridge. Your new bridge will depend on the strength of surrounding teeth to remain workable. That means it’s as important as ever to brush and floss correctly and regularly. This will help you prevent gum disease or tooth decay in the teeth you still have.
It may be a little tricky to brush and floss with a bridge, but your dentist or dental hygienist will be happy to show you the best way to keep your smile dazzling.
Do you already have a dental bridge? How has it changed your life for the better? Let us know in the comment section below!
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To learn about other dental technologies, be sure to check out our resources section.