Having a missing tooth can affect the way you feel about your smile and your appearance. It can also affect your dental health long-term. If you have a missing tooth and need a replacement, you may have heard of a dental bridge. This is just one of the many dental services we offer here at the office of Mas’ood Cajee DDS MPH in Manteca, CA.
But you may wonder what a dental bridge is and when it is a good idea to get one. We will answer those questions in this article. We will also discuss the different types of bridges, benefits of bridges, and what to expect from the treatment.
A Dental Bridge: What Is It?
If you have space in between your natural teeth where you’re missing your tooth or multiple teeth, then a dental bridge can “bridge” the gap between them. This will allow you to replace it, restoring function and esthetics. A bridge is made up of at least three artificial teeth called crowns that are connected together into one continuous piece. The crown or crowns in the middle replace the missing tooth or teeth.
Parts of a Bridge
Each tooth in a bridge is known as a unit. Bridges typically have up to six teeth, or units, which means they are ideally used to replace a maximum of four teeth except in special cases.
The teeth on either side of the in-between space are called abutments. These teeth are shaped so that the crowns on the end of the bridge can be permanently cemented to them. The replacements for the missing teeth in the gap are called pontics. How many pontics are needed is based on how many teeth are missing.
The abutment crowns and the pontics are all artificial teeth that resemble natural teeth; these form one continuous unit for a natural look.
Types of Dental Bridges
There are several types of bridges, and which one is chosen depends on your personal situation and dental health. These include traditional bridges, cantilever bridges, Maryland bridges, and implant-supported bridges.
The traditional bridge is made of a false tooth or false teeth that are held in place by dental crowns cemented onto the abutment teeth. This is the most popular type of bridge that is used when you have natural teeth on both sides of the gap where the tooth is missing.
The cantilever bridge is similar to a traditional bridge, but the pontic is held in place by a crown cemented to only one abutment tooth. With this type of bridge, only one natural tooth is needed next to the gap where the tooth is missing.
Like a traditional bridge, the Maryland bridge uses two natural abutment teeth on either side of the gap. However, instead of using abutment crowns, the Maryland bridge uses a metal or porcelain framework that is bonded onto the backs of the abutment teeth.
If you have multiple teeth missing right next to each other and want implants for each individual tooth, you can have an implant-supported bridge on top of them. The implants will hold the bridge in position.
If you can’t have an implant placed for each individual missing tooth, then implants may be used as abutments on either side of a missing tooth. The pontic will be suspended in between the two implant-supported abutment crowns. This is considered the most stable and strongest system, but it does require two surgeries and months of time before the bridge is actually placed.
Materials Used for Bridges
There are many materials that can be used for bridges, including:
- Porcelain fused to metal
Which material is chosen depends on the area of the mouth, esthetics, the alignment of the teeth, and more. Here at our office, we use BruxZir® Solid Zirconia for our bridges, which is a brand of full-contour Zirconia that is a very strong, highly esthetic material. In fact, it is the most widely used brand for bridges in the dental world, with an excellent record of success.
When Is It a Good Idea to Get a Dental Bridge?
In order to understand when a bridge is a good option, it is good to know how areas of the mouth are classified in the dental world.
The mouth is divided into four quadrants: upper right, upper left, lower right, and lower left. The top jaw and bottom jaw are both called arches, and the front six teeth are anterior while the six back teeth on both sides are posterior. These classifications allow dental professionals to identify tooth numbers and areas of the mouth easily. Knowing the arch, quadrant, and tooth numbers can help them determine if it is a good idea for you to get a bridge.
There are several situations where a dental bridge is a great option. These include missing teeth on the same arch, missing anterior teeth, disqualification for implants, disinterest in implants, and disinterest in partials/flippers.
Missing Teeth on the Same Arch
If you have one or more missing teeth on one side of your mouth with healthy teeth in healthy bone, then a bridge is a great option for you. The dentist can replace up to four missing teeth on one side, creating a bridge with up to six units.
Missing Anterior Teeth
No one wants to have front teeth missing. If you are missing one or more front teeth and want a fixed replacement, you can have a bridge anchored to the teeth on the sides of the missing space as a replacement.
Disqualified for Implants
You may have looked into options for replacement and desired implants only to be informed that you did not qualify as a candidate due to bone loss or other health conditions. If this is the case with you, and you have healthy teeth with good bone on either side of the empty space, then a bridge is an excellent option.
Disinterest in Implants
Even if you qualify for implants, you may not want to have surgery and then have to wait months before you can replace your tooth. In these cases, a bridge is still an excellent option that will provide you with a faster replacement option.
Disinterest in Partials/Flippers
You may not want to invest in a partial or a flipper because it is removable. If you want a fixed solution to missing teeth instead of a removable solution, then it is a great idea to get a bridge.
The Benefits of Dental Bridges
A Fixed Solution
Because a bridge is cemented to the teeth using a permanent cement, you will not have to worry about taking it in and out. This is a great advantage over other tooth replacements like partials or flippers.
Fast Treatment Process
Some processes to replace teeth like implants and partials can take several steps. However, bridges can typically be completed in just two appointments. This allows you to get your tooth replacement in less than a month in most cases.
Improved Tooth Function
As discussed above, having missing teeth can cause a lot of problems in the mouth. By replacing a missing tooth with a bridge, you are restoring the ideal function of the mouth. This will allow the teeth to take on the proper amount of force and perform the functions they are intended to, preventing cracks or breaks.
Better Eating Ability
Losing a tooth or multiple teeth can affect your ability to eat some of your favorite foods, especially tougher foods like steak, chicken, and more. Because the bridge uses teeth on either side of the missing space for support, you can chew on the bridge without worrying about it breaking.
The bridge will also keep you from having to chew with teeth that are not intended to be used for chewing, so you can eat more easily without tooth discomfort or pain. This will allow you to eat more of your favorite foods once again.
Studies show that bridges can last anywhere from 10 to 15 years with proper home care. This means that your initial investment will not go to waste, so you can continue to have your missing tooth replaced for years to come.
Missing a tooth can make you feel self-conscious when you talk or smile. It can even affect your desire to have daily conversations with people, especially in the workforce. By replacing your missing tooth or missing teeth with a tooth-colored bridge that is cemented, you won’t have to worry about how your mouth looks while you interact with others. You can have a replacement that looks and feels natural.
The Dental Bridge Process: What to Expect
At your initial exam, the dental assistant and dentist will take any x-rays and pictures needed and perform an oral examination to make sure a bridge is a viable option for you. They will also discuss your dental and medical history and answer any questions you may have. If time is available and you are ready to proceed, you may even begin the bridge the same day.
The First Appointment
At the first appointment, Dr. Cajee will numb your teeth if needed. The assistant will take an impression of your teeth as a guide to make your temporary crowns or temporary bridge. A shade will also be selected to provide as close of a match to your natural tooth color as possible.
The teeth on either side of the space will then be shaped as needed with a handpiece and burs to fit a crown on them. The doctor will make an impression and bite record to send to the lab to fabricate your final bridge.
Depending on your situation, temporary crowns or a temporary bridge will be fabricated, fitted to your teeth and your bite, and cemented with temporary cement for you to wear until your final crown is delivered. This typically takes a couple of weeks, so be sure to follow all the precautions and care instructions given for your temporary.
The Second Appointment
At the next appointment, your temporary will be removed and all temporary cement will be cleaned from your teeth. The shade will be compared to your natural teeth to make sure you are satisfied. If you are satisfied with the color, your bridge will then be fitted and adjusted as needed to make sure your bite is correct and you can floss in between the teeth easily.
Once the fit is correct, the doctor will cement the bridge to your teeth using permanent cement and clean all the excess. You will then go over home care instructions and methods and have all your questions answered.
Replacing Your Missing Tooth
We know how much a missing tooth can affect your life. Call us here at the office of Mas’ood Cajee DDS MPH in Manteca, CA so we can provide you with the smile and tooth health that you desire. If you are missing a tooth and would like to know more about bridges, schedule a consult today! We look forward to hearing from you and taking care of your dental needs.