Losing a tooth or two is not unusual. Research by the Center for Disease Control in the USA found that by the age of 40, around 70 per cent of people have lost at least one permanent tooth, usually as a result of decay. A dental bridge is a custom-made prosthetic that will bridge the gap left by missing teeth.
When building a fixed bridge, the dentist will create a crown to replace the missing tooth and join it to crowns that fit over the teeth to either side. So the bridge is made up of three crowns, supported on each side. If there are two or more missing teeth, the bridge can sometimes be made up of even more crowns.
What Benefits Do Dental Bridges Bring?
Many patients assume the reason for a tooth bridge is predominantly cosmetic. From a pragmatic perspective, it is not even the most important one.
Each of the 28 teeth (excluding wisdom teeth) in an adult mouth has a job to do. If one or more of your teeth are missing, it means you will not be able to chew food properly, and the forces in your bite will not be distributed correctly. Furthermore, the teeth on either side of any gap will tend to drift towards the vacant space, exacerbating the problem of a misaligned bite.
Missing teeth can also lead to speech impediments, making it difficult to pronounce certain words or sounds. In extreme cases, it can even change the shape and appearance of your face.
Having a dental bridge in place maintains the shape of your face, keeps your teeth aligned for an efficient bite and prevents any speech problems associated with tooth loss. It also means you have a smile; you will be proud to show off without feeling self-conscious.
What Types of Bridges Are Available?
The most common type of bridge is the crown bridge, which is the sort we described earlier. This is ideal when you have healthy teeth to either side of the gap where the supporting crowns can be fitted. These are referred to as abutment teeth. The potential problem with this type of bridge is that its effectiveness depends on the stability and health of those abutment teeth. If their condition is in doubt, there are other alternatives.
A cantilever bridge can be fitted where there is only one abutment tooth available. This sort of bridge works well with front teeth but is not appropriate for the molars, where larger bite forces are in operation, and it would put too much pressure on the abutment tooth.
A Maryland bridge uses plastic teeth that are bonded to the abutment teeth using a metal frame instead of dental crowns. It requires less work to design and fit than a traditional fixed bridge. The downside here is that a Maryland bridge is not as long-lasting as a crown bridge and can become discoloured over time.
Common Questions in Relation to Dental Bridges
As is the case with most dental procedures carried out by a professional, there might be some discomfort when having bridgework done, but it should not be painful. Your dentist will usually numb the area to keep pain to a minimum.
When your bridge has been fitted, you will find eating even easier than without it. In most cases, you can eat as soon as you wish, and the dentist will tell you at the end of your consultation if there are any types of food you should avoid over the first day or two.
Independent researchers have found that a fixed bridge can easily last for 10 to 15 years, or even longer if you maintain a good oral hygiene routine. Even Maryland bridges can last for ten years or more, although they can become discoloured, and even cause discolouration of the abutment teeth, over the years.
Oral care is the key to a long-lasting bridge, as the most common reason for a bridge to finally fail is tooth decay at the junction of the abutment tooth and the crown. However, caring for a bridge does not require anything beyond the usual brushing, flossing and regular visits to the hygienist – it is imperative that you keep a regular schedule when it comes to both home and routine professional oral care.
This will be variable depending on the material and the number of abutments we need for the bridge. Your dentist will be able to discuss cost upfront during the initial consultation appointment