Dental bridges restore smiles and confidence by correcting the appearance of missing teeth. Because the process may require treatment of gum disease or other conditions before the bridge placement, patients need to see a dentist that offers a range of services. At Cedar Walk Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, bridges are among the many dental services we offer our patients to give them great-looking, healthy-feeling smiles.
What Is a Dental Bridge?
Dental bridges create fixed solutions for patients with one or more missing teeth. A dental bridge fixes holes in the smile by using natural teeth on either side of a dental gap for support with an artificial tooth also called a pontic. Dentists may use one of several types of bridges to span the gap in the teeth. The choice depends on the location of the bridge and the presence of natural teeth, and their strength.
The most commonly placed type of bridge, a traditional fixed bridge, uses crowns placed over abutment teeth to hold up the pontic between them. Both abutment teeth should be healthy enough to accept crowns and support the bridge.
A Maryland bridge does not use crowns on the abutment teeth. Instead, this type of bridge, commonly used for the front teeth, supports the pontic with metal or porcelain brackets bonded to the back of the abutment teeth.
Finally, the most reliable and long-lasting type of bridge uses dental implants to support the pontic. The downside is the extended time required for implant surgery and healing before placement of the bridge. For this type of bridge, a patient does not need healthy teeth as abutments. Instead, the dentist implants permanent titanium screws on either side of the gap. These screws will support crowns that have one or more pontics between them.
Why Patients Need Dental Bridges
Since dental bridges replace missing teeth, any cause of tooth loss may prompt a patient to ask their dentist about a bridge.
Common causes of individual tooth loss include trauma and severe decay. However, patients who've lost teeth due to periodontal (gum) disease, need to have the condition treated first before getting a bridge. Gum disease progresses from minor redness to inflammation quickly. Patients with severe gum disease will have pockets open at the base of their teeth, causing loose teeth or tooth loss. Periodontal therapy cleans out bacteria from the gum line and can shrink the size of the pockets to reduce the chances of further tooth loss.
How Dental Bridges Affix in the Mouth
Dental bridges stay in place with crowns, porcelain or metal frames, or implants. All options create bridges that remain in place in the mouth for years.
Typically, bridges require two visits for placement. The dentist takes three-dimensional images of the abutment teeth and gaps during the first visit. If placing a traditional bridge, they will also prepare the teeth for the crowns by grinding down some of the tooth's surface to accommodate the crown. They will also take images of the teeth after preparation. This information helps to produce crowns or brackets for the abutment teeth and one or more pontics to cover the space.
The dentist will perform surgery for implants to place titanium screws into the jaw. These screws will anchor the crowns that support the bridge on either side. After healing from surgery, the patient's jaw bone will have grown around the screws to create permanent anchors for the crowns on top.
During the second visit, the dentist places the bridge by installing the crowns that support the pontic. They will cement the dental pieces into place for crowns over natural teeth. For crowns over implants, they will cement or screw them to the abutments placed on top of the screws. For bridges that use frames behind the front teeth for support, the dentist will bond the brackets to the backs of the abutment teeth.
Common Materials Used for Dental Bridges
The materials used for bridges determine the appliances' appearance and function. While metals last the longest, they look unsightly. Therefore, most dentists avoid using all-metal construction for bridges today.
Most crowns and pontics use porcelain for their entire construction or as an exterior coating over a metal interior. This option allows the bridge to seamlessly blend in with the teeth so patients don't advertise to others that they have a bridge.
Caring for a Dental Bridge
Porcelain veneers can last for more than a decade, especially if you care for them properly. While durable, your veneers can crack if subjected to too much stress.
Avoid using veneer-covered teeth to bite directly into hard foods, such as apples or carrots. For these types of foods, cut them into pieces to allow you to chew them with your back teeth.
Continue to brush your teeth and your veneers with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Doing so can prevent stains on the veneers while keeping your teeth healthy.
Cedar Walk Family and Cosmetic Dentistry for Bridges in South Charlotte, NC
Missing teeth should not cause anyone to live the rest of their lives eating a limited diet and offering closed-lip smiles. Dental bridges can replace the missing tooth or teeth with a long-lasting solution that looks and feels good, no matter where the dentist places it in the mouth.
Anyone interested in dental bridges in South Charlotte, NC, needs to contact us at Cedar Walk Family and Cosmetic Dentistry. We can provide dental bridges and other dental care and even treat periodontal disease if necessary. We help our patients improve their smiles so they can live full, healthy lives.