All of your teeth play an important role in speaking, chewing and maintaining proper alignment of other teeth. Tooth loss doesn’t necessarily have to occur as you age, but if you do lose teeth they must be replaced to maintain proper function of your mouth. Fortunately, there are options for correcting tooth loss.
Dental Bridge Options
A bridge — a device used to replace missing teeth — attaches artificial teeth to adjacent natural teeth, called abutment teeth. Bridges are either permanently attached (fixed bridges), or they can be removable.
Fixed bridges are applied by either placing crowns on the abutment teeth or by bonding the artificial teeth directly to the abutment teeth. Removable bridges are attached to the teeth with metal clasps or by precision attachments.
If you’re missing one or more teeth, you may be aware of their importance to your appearance and dental health. Your teeth work together for many daily functions from eating to speaking. With missing teeth, it’s difficult to do these things. Missing teeth can and should be replaced. Fixed bridges are a great way to restore your dental health and appearance.
What exactly is a bridge or fixed partial denture?
A bridge (fixed partial denture) is a device that fills the gap where teeth are absent. Fixed bridges are bonded into place and can only be removed by a dental professional. Removable bridges, as the name implies, can be taken out and cleaned. Fixed bridges offer more stability than their removable counterparts.
Why do I need a bridge?
Oral functionality and appearance are important reasons for wearing a bridge. A bridge helps support your lips and cheeks. The loss of a back tooth may cause your mouth to sink and your face to look older.
Dental health is the most important reason for a bridge. Teeth were designed to complement each other. Unusual stresses are placed on the gums and other oral tissues when teeth are missing, causing a number of potentially harmful disorders.
Increased risk of gum disease has proven to be one of the worst side effects of missing teeth and can be minimized with a bridge.
Missing teeth can cause speech disorders as they are used to make many of the sounds we use to speak clearly.
How is a bridge attached?
The attachment procedure usually takes two or three appointments to complete. At the first appointment, Dr. Chowning will prepare the teeth on either side of the gap by removing a portion of the enamel and dentin.
Since the bridge must be fabricated very precisely to ensure correct bite and to match the opposing tooth, impressions of the teeth are taken and sent to a lab where the bridge will be constructed.
Fixed bridges are typically cemented to the natural teeth next to the space left by the missing tooth. A pontic (false tooth) replaces the lost tooth. Crowns, which are cemented onto the natural teeth, provide support for the bridge.
What materials are used?
Bridges can be constructed from gold alloys, non-precious alloys, porcelain, or a combination of these materials. Porcelain is often bonded to either precious or non-precious metal.
How do I take care of my bridge?
A strict regimen of brushing and flossing will keep the bridge and surrounding teeth clean. This is of critical importance as the bridge relies on the neighboring teeth for support.
How Long Will My Dental Bridge Last?
Dental bridges are as durable as crowns and can last for 5-15 years depending on your oral hygiene and how well you take care of the bridge. If you regularly brush, floss, attend dental appointments every 6 months, and are careful with your bridge, you can expect it to last for at least a decade.
Some tips on how to extend the lifespan of your dental bridge include avoiding activities that can cause wear and tear of the crowns and false teeth, such as using your teeth as tools, chewing hard and sticky foods, or grinding your teeth at night without a mouthguard.
We also recommend getting some special tools that can help you more adequately keep your dental bridge clean. It can be difficult to thoroughly remove food particles and plaque from the pontic tooth. The following dental tools can help you clean the hard to reach areas of your bridge:
- Floss threader
- Interdental brush
- Water flosser
Can I Eat and Drink Normally With Dental Bridges?
There are technically no food restrictions for dental bridges because they work as a tooth restoration that fully restores the function of your teeth. In that sense, your dental bridge works just like your natural teeth and you do not need to cut out certain foods.
However, if you want to extend the lifespan of your dental bridge, you should avoid chewing hard and sticky foods with your dental bridge. Consuming these foods can accelerate the wear and tear of your bridge or loosen it, which can mean replacing it sooner.
Though the porcelain and metal materials used to construct dental bridges are stain-resistant, your bridge can still become discolored over time. Smoking and consuming staining foods and drinks can also cause discoloration in your dental bridge.
You can reduce the risk of discoloration by reducing your consumption of staining foods and drinks, drinking through a straw, and getting regular dental cleanings. Consuming the following put you at a higher risk for tooth and bridge stains:
- Coffee or tea
- Red wine
- Highly pigmented foods
- Tobacco products
- Berries and juices
How Do I Know if I’m a Candidate for a Dental Bridge?
A good candidate for dental bridges is someone who is in good oral health as well as overall health and is missing between 1-3 consecutive teeth. A dental bridge can be used to replace up to four teeth but they must all be next to each other. If you are missing teeth in different spaces in the mouth, a dental bridge may not be the best option for you and you may want to consider dentures.
Dr. Rodney Chowning can determine if you are a good candidate for a dental bridge by performing an oral exam and taking x-rays to look for signs of tooth decay or gum disease. If any of these issues are present, you will need to get them treated before you can be fitted for a dental bridge.
Decay and gum disease will not be fixed by covering them up with a dental bridge. This is likely to cause bridge failure. The health of your surrounding teeth is also very important as they will serve as an anchor for the bridge to hold it in place. If these teeth are damaged or weak, they will increase the risk of failure.
It’s also important to have adequate jaw bone density to support the bridge. Inadequate bone density can cause loosening or failure of the bridge. However, there are options to address this such as bone grafting to strengthen the jaw.
Certain medical conditions may also disqualify you as a candidate if it will affect the success of the dental bridge. Finally, you must be committed to maintaining good oral hygiene. It can sometimes be difficult to clean a dental bridge and thoroughly remove all food particles or plaque.
Commitment to regular brushing, flossing, and dental visits is a must. If you’re interested in replacing a missing tooth or teeth with a dental bridge, contact us at Timberlake Dental to schedule a consultation with Dr. Rodney Chowning today.