The American Dental Association says that 178 million Americans are missing at least a single tooth. When a patient is missing a tooth or a few teeth, dental implants are the best option to replace these missing teeth, but a number of implants may be too involved and expensive. In these cases, a dental bridge from the Schmitt Dental team is a perfect solution.

What Is A Dental Bridge?

As the name implies, a bridge spans the gap created by a missing tooth or teeth. Bridges have three parts: two crowns are placed on the teeth on each side of the gap (the abutment teeth) and the false tooth or teeth in the middle, usually porcelain fused to an underlying metal base. These bridges are permanently cemented onto the abutment teeth and function as a single piece.

Pretty dentist showing her patient jaw model

Because they are not removable, they are sometimes called fixed bridges.

This is the description of a traditional bridge, where there are abutment teeth on each side of the gap. If the missing teeth are on the back molars, a cantilever bridge will be used, where the anchoring teeth are the last two teeth before the gap. For the front teeth, Maryland bridges are used. These don’t use crowns but instead anchor on the inner face of the adjoining healthy teeth.

Why Would I Need A Dental Bridge?

Sometimes patients opt to not replace a tooth that has either needed extraction due to excessive decay or was lost due to trauma. They either don’t want to spend the money or see the replacement process as a hassle. But this can create serious problems for your oral health. Teeth remain in place because of the pressure they receive from the teeth next to them. When that pressure is gone because one or more teeth are missing, the adjacent teeth tend to slide over into the gap. This creates problems with your bite and the alignment of your smile.

Here are several reasons patients opt to have a dental bridge:

  • Replace missing teeth
  • Maintain facial shape
  • Prevent the adjacent teeth from moving into the gap
  • Restore chewing and/or biting capability
  • Restore speaking diction
  • Restore the cosmetic appearance of your smile
  • Replace a partial, removable denture
A man's mouth with diseased teeth.

What To Expect During Dental Bridge Process

Dental bridges require two appointments. During your first appointment, your Schmitt dentist will prepare the two abutment teeth for their crowns. To do so, we shave off a portion of both of these anchor teeth on all sides and on top. The reason for this is twofold: we need to make room for the crowns to fully cover the underlying teeth without taking up more space and we need to make a perfect surface for cementing the crowns. Once the teeth are prepared, we take impressions and photos for color matching (we also use a shade guide to select the porcelain color to match your adjacent teeth) and send this information off to the dental lab where your custom bridge will be fabricated.

This usually takes about two weeks, and in the meantime, we’ll place two temporary crowns onto the abutment teeth.

How Are Dental Bridges Placed?

When your new bridge is delivered to our offices, you come back in. First, your doctor will check the bridge to see how the crowns and artificial tooth or teeth match your natural teeth. Then we’ll test the fit. If you prefer, we can place the bridge with temporary cement and you can test it out for a couple of days. Or, if you’re satisfied with the fit, we’ll permanently cement the crowns onto your teeth. That ends the procedure; you can go out and immediately begin using your new bridge.

Is There Any Recovery Time?

Doctor dentist showing to a woman patient dental prosthetics

There isn’t any recovery for either stage of this process. When the abutment teeth are prepared in the first appointment, that doesn’t require recovery. We place a temporary bridge on these teeth while your permanent bridge is being made. In the second appointment, after we permanently cement your bridge onto your teeth you can immediately use it. There isn’t any pain or recovery.

How To Care For Dental Bridges

Regular twice-daily brushing and flossing are really all that you need to do to keep your bridge in good shape. The only difference is that you’ll need to floss under your false tooth/teeth of the bridge once each day. You can also use a proxy brush, which is designed for this kind of use. By flossing under your bridge, this ensures any trapped food particles are removed.

What Is A Dental Bridge Made Of?

At Schmitt Dental, we prefer to use bridges that are made from porcelain fused to metal. We feel these offer the best combination of strength and beauty. Dental porcelain has a natural translucency that closely approximates that of natural tooth enamel. Plus, porcelain is highly resistant to staining.

How Long Do Dental Bridges Last?

The lifespan of a bridge is usually dependent upon the health of the abutment teeth. If they remain healthy, a bridge can last up to 15 years or longer. Bridges can break if you chew on very hard foods, but these can usually be repaired. Still, it’s not a bad idea to avoid biting on hard foods (at least in the location of your bridge) and being careful when eating really sticky foods.

What The Difference Between Bridges And Dental Implants?

If you’re missing a tooth or a few teeth, there are really only two options for replacing them: a bridge or dental implants. Obviously, if you’re missing all of your teeth on one arch (of the majority) then dentures are a possibility. Sometimes bridges are called partial dentures, but they really are the same thing.

Anatomy of healthy teeth and tooth dental implant in human denturra.
3d render of jaw with dental bridge

Dental implants are the best solution for replacing a tooth. The implant base is shaped like a screw and made of titanium. It is screwed down into the hole formerly occupied by your natural tooth root. Your jawbone then grows around the titanium implant, making it a part of your jaw. When this process is complete, a post is attached to the implant and an artificial tooth is attached to the post. Dental implants function just like natural teeth because they are anchored into the jaw in the same way. You can eat whatever you want and they will generally last decades, often the remainder of the patient’s life. Implants can also be used as anchors for fixed bridges if the patient is missing a number of teeth, but can’t afford to replace all of them with implants.

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