All of your teeth play an important role in speaking, chewing and in maintaining proper alignment of other teeth. Tooth loss doesn’t necessarily have to occur as you age, but if you do lose teeth they must be replaced to maintain proper function of your mouth. Fortunately, there are options for correcting tooth loss.
Dental Bridge Options
A bridge — a dental restoration that fills the space where one or more teeth are missing — attaches artificial teeth to adjacent natural teeth, called abutment teeth. Bridges are either permanently attached (fixed bridges), or they can be removable.
Fixed bridges are made by either placing crowns on the abutment teeth or by bonding the artificial (replacement) teeth directly to the abutment teeth. Removable bridges are attached to the teeth with metal clasps or by precision attachments and are removed by the patient for cleaning. Fixed bridges offer more stability than their removable counterparts.
If you’re missing one or more teeth, you may be aware of their importance to your appearance and overall dental health. Your teeth work together for many daily functions from eating to speaking. With missing teeth, it’s difficult to do these things. Missing teeth can and should be replaced. Fixed bridges restore your bite and help keep the natural shape of your face.
Why do I need a bridge?
Dental health is the most important reason for a bridge. Teeth were designed to complement each other. Unusual stresses are placed on the gums, other teeth and jaw joints when teeth are missing. Once a tooth is lost, the neighboring teeth may tilt or drift into the empty space. The teeth in the opposite jaw may also shift up or down toward the space. Teeth that have drifted or tipped are harder to clean. This in turn increases the risk of decay and periodontal (gum) disease.
When a tooth is lost, the bone shrinks. This loss of bone will change the way the jawbone supports the lips and cheeks. Over time, the loss of bone will age your face and may cause your face to sink in the area of the missing tooth (teeth).
Missing teeth can cause speech disorders as they are used to form many of the sounds we use to speak clearly.
How is a bridge made?
Bridge fabrication will require four to five appointments. At the first appointment Dr. Torres-Melendez or Dr. Spatz will prepare the abutment teeth on either side of the space (where the tooth or teeth are missing) by removing a portion of the enamel and dentin. This removal of tooth structure (tooth preparation) is necessary to make room for the restorative materials that will be needed to fabricate the bridge. After tooth preparation, a custom-made acrylic provisional bridge is carved. This provisional bridge will protect the prepared teeth and replace the missing tooth (teeth). The provisional bridge will prevent movement of the neighboring teeth and enable the patient to function normally using that side of the mouth. This interim bridge will remain in place until it is replaced by the final prosthesis.
A bridge must be made very precisely to ensure correct fit on the supporting teeth and an accurate bite. After at least two weeks, impressions of the prepared teeth are made and sent to a dental laboratory where the bridge is fabricated.
Fixed bridges are typically cemented or bonded to the natural (abutment) teeth. These abutments, provide support for the replacement tooth (pontic).
What materials are used?
Bridges can be fabricated from high noble alloys, noble alloys, ceramic, or a combination of these materials.
How do I take care of my bridge?
A strict oral hygiene regimen that includes brushing, flossing and the use of interdental brushes will enhance the longevity of the bridge. Excellent oral hygiene is important for the maintenance and preservation of your dental work as well as your natural teeth.