Bridging the gap to keep you smiling.
What is a dental bridge?
A dental bridge is a fixed dental prosthesis made of multiple crowns joined together to span empty spaces where teeth are missing in your mouth. Just as a bridge spans the space between two sides of a bayou or river, a dental bridge spans a missing space between teeth. A bridge is designed to provide structural support and distribute chewing forces evenly throughout the dentition. They are also designed to look and feel like your natural teeth. If a bridge has been recommended as the best replacement option for your missing teeth, our dentists will determine the type of bridge that best meets your need. There are three types of bridges; conventional, cantilever, and Maryland. Each bridge is designed to meet a specific need.
A conventional bridge consists of at least three crowns joined together to replace at least one missing tooth. The replacement tooth is called a “pontic” crown and the anchor teeth are called the “retainer” crowns. Merriam-Webster defines “retainer” as “a device or structure that holds something in place”. This is an excellent definition for our use here as the retainer crowns are permanently cemented over the existing teeth thus holding the bridge in place as it spans across the missing space. Conventional bridges are the most widely used bridge. They typically consist of three to four crowns, but can include up to six. Because of their durability they are appropriate for placement anywhere in the mouth.
Why would I need a dental bridge?
When you are missing teeth, you lose chewing power which you compensate for in other parts of your mouth. As your chewing force shifts to other areas there are unwanted effects manifest in your dentition. Filling additional spaces in your mouth is important because missing teeth can cause surrounding teeth to move, which may alter your bite, make your jaw sore, or lead to other problems like gum disease, loss of additional teeth, or alterations in your appearance. Your jaw is more likely to function properly if all of your missing teeth are replaced.
Benefits of a fixed bridge prosthesis include:
- Maintaining a proper face shape
- Keeping your smile intact
- Restoring or preserving your ability to correctly speak and chew
- Stop remaining teeth from rotating or drifting to new positions
- Appropriately distribute the forces of chewing
What material will my dental bridge be made from?
Bridges consist of multiple crowns joined together (each crown is called a unit); so naturally they are made of the same materials as crowns. Our dentists will consider the functional and aesthetic needs of the bridge based on its location in your mouth and will select porcelain, metal, or a combination of the two. Porcelain has remarkable properties that imitate tooth structure and can be sculpted to a natural shape, mimicking the color and translucency of enamel in turn creating a truly lifelike result. Metal, on the other hand, can provide strength and reinforcement necessary for teeth that take on the forces of mastication (chewing). A bridge is most commonly fabricated from both porcelain and metal and is called a porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) bridge. Each unit of a PFM bridge has a porcelain outer layer under which is a substructure made from a combination of metals known as an alloy. The metals can be precious, semi-precious, or non-precious. A bridge made predominantly from a precious metal such as gold could last the longest and be the strongest, but few people these days appreciate having a span of solid gold teeth. Because the retainer units of a bridge completely cap the visible tooth, a PFM crown can be an excellent option to satisfy both functional and aesthetic needs. Crowns made entirely of porcelain provide an even greater aesthetic value but have differing strength and durability characteristics. The location of the pontic and retainer teeth combined with the inherent chewing forces associated with those teeth dictate the material used to make the bridge. Our dentists will select the best material based on your particular dentition and aesthetic need.
How long will it take?
Preparing and placing a conventional three-unit bridge usually involves two visits. During the first visit your retainer teeth are trimmed and shaped to receive the bridge; an impression of your retainer teeth and missing space(s) is then taken and a temporary bridge placed. The impression is sent to a registered dental laboratory for fabrication of a lifelike prosthesis. During the second visit your bridge will be permanently cemented into place.
How do I care for my dental bridge?
Your bridge should feel quite natural and as such you will be comfortable brushing it as you would your natural teeth. You will need to add an extra step to your floss regimen by flossing underneath the pontic. You will benefit from the use of a special device to thread the floss through. Regular dental visits for examination and cleaning will ensure that your bridge is evaluated for its role and function within your mouth. At your regular visit, our dental hygienists will guide you in the care of your fixed dental prosthesis.
What is a cantilever or Maryland dental bridge?
Our dentists may recommend a cantilever or Maryland bridge under special circumstances. A cantilever bridge consists of two crowns; one serving as the pontic or replacement tooth and one serving as the anchor or retainer tooth. This type of bridge is rarely used in the back of your mouth because a single retainer tooth is not usually adequate to withstand the forces of chewing on back teeth. Cantilever bridges are more likely to be used in the front of your mouth because one retainer crown can be sufficient to withstand the biting pressure exerted on your front teeth. A Maryland bridge, also usually used only for front teeth, consists of one pontic crown with two metal wings bonded to the back side of the teeth on each side of the missing space.