Dental Bridges

What are dental bridges?

Dental bridges are a fixed dental prosthesis, custom made to replace a missing tooth or teeth sandwiched between your neighboring teeth. They are essentially, at the minimum, three crowns fused together. The missing tooth or teeth in between the bridge is called a “pontic”. A bridge helps restore the function and bite of your teeth by distributing forces evenly during mastication (chewing) and keeping the natural shape of your face.

Dental Bridge

What are dental bridges made of?

Bridges are very similar to crowns and made from the same materials. Bridges are made of metals and/or ceramics.

Below are the most common types of dental bridges:

  • Gold
  • Porcelain fused to metal
  • All ceramic (porcelain) – widely used today
  • Zirconia – widely used today

Bridge Diagnosis

A bridge may be recommended or indicated when you

  • Have a missing tooth or teeth between your neighboring teeth
  • Have a missing tooth or teeth that cannot be replaced with a dental implant

What can happen if I don’t get a bridge when one was recommended?

There are several issues that can arise when missing a tooth or multiple teeth.

  • Drifting of neighboring teeth teeth will drift towards empty spaces and out of normal positions.
  • Supra-eruption of opposing teeth – a tooth starts to grow into a space and out of the gums because there is no opposing force to stop it from continuous eruption.
  • Malocclusion of teeth – teeth will lose contact, and cause disruption of your bite.
  • Bone loss – bone will start to resorb and will cause jaw deterioration over time.

When you have a missing tooth or teeth, your mouth will start to see changes and you may not be able chew or eat the same way as before. These changes will cause shifting and can cause more damage to your neighboring healthy teeth. Excessive forces distributed unevenly can cause over usage and result in loss of teeth over time.

What are better, dental bridges or dental implants?

Both a dental bridge and dental implant can serve to replace a missing tooth or teeth. They will improve your smile and function and are both great options for teeth replacement.

Some things to consider with a dental bridge is that in order for the crowns of the bridge to go over the teeth, some tooth structure must be removed. In cases where your neighboring teeth have large fillings, a bridge may be beneficial since those teeth will be covered by a crown and protected.

Here are some pros and cons to a dental bridge

Pros

  • Immediate results for tooth replacement
  • No surgery needed
  • Great strength and durability
  • Great aesthetics

Cons

  • Removal of tooth structure from neighboring teeth
  • Additional maintenance of bridge needed (flossing underneath bridge)

Dental implants are also a popular option. The advantage of a dental implant is that it does not rely on the neighboring teeth for anchoring. Implants that have fully integrated can potentially last you a lifetime. However, unlike bridges, dental implants do require surgery and healthy bone structure. Please consult with your dental advocate to see which is best for you.

Bridge Treatment

What is the process of a bridge? Does it hurt?

The process of a bridge is similar to a crown. Local anesthetic is administered so you will not feel any pain during the procedure. Your dentist should make sure you are completely comfortable in the chair. In general, the procedure takes about an hour or so but can take longer depending on if you have a cavity or a large filling on your neighboring teeth.

The bridge is a two-appointment process. (Preparation and Final Cementation)

Preparation Stage

  • 1. The dentist prepares the tooth by removing any large cavity, existing filling material, fracture, or natural teeth.
  • 2. A core build-up is placed when a large cavitation or existing filling material is present so that you are not left with a large hollow hole. A core build-up is material placed for strength and support of the tooth and bridge. In some cases, it may not be necessary.
  • 3. An impression is taken to provide the lab the exact model to fabricate the crown. Impressions can be made by a mold or a digital scanner.
  • 4. A temporary bridge is placed in the meantime during the lab fabrication of the bridge. This will shield and protect the tooth for a couple of weeks. While the temporary bridge is in, it is important to avoid direct contact, chewing crunchy, hard, or taffy-like things to prevent the temporary bridge from breaking or coming off. Since the tooth has been worked on, patients will usually feel some soreness around the gums in that area and may have some hot/cold sensitivity. These symptoms usually resolve after a couple of days.

Cementation

Once the bridge is back from the lab, the dentist will make sure your crown properly fits and is adjusted to your original bite. The fit can be double checked by taking a radiographic x-ray before the bridge is permanently cemented. Once it is permanently cemented you will be able to go back to chewing properly and flossing regularly in that area.