Dental Bridges Explained

Dental bridges fill the gap left by missing teeth and help prevent your existing teeth from shifting to fill the empty space. They also improve chewing, speech and pronunciation.

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A bridge usually consists of two crowns on healthy adjacent teeth that are fused together to support a false tooth. Different types of bridges have unique characteristics.

Traditional Bridge

The traditional bridge is an effective restoration for patients who have gaps in their smile due to missing teeth. This restorative treatment is typically more comfortable and affordable than partial dentures or dental implants, though it may require a slightly longer healing period. Additionally, certain diets might not be compatible with this type of replacement tooth.

This treatment relies on the support of natural teeth on either side of the gap to keep a false tooth, also known as a pontic, in place. The dentist injects the abutment teeth with local anesthesia, which makes the procedure much more comfortable. They then reshape and resize the teeth to prepare them for crowns that will hold the pontic in place.

A temporary bridge will be placed until the permanent bridge is ready. Once it is, the dentist will use an impression to create a custom-made dental crown that will fit over the abutment teeth. This crown will look and feel like a natural tooth, and it will be used to fill the gap.

In addition to restoring the patient’s smile, this treatment has benefits for the patient’s long-term oral health. The presence of a bridge reduces the risk of the remaining natural teeth shifting position or becoming loose, which could lead to bite problems and jaw atrophy. Additionally, a dental bridge can prevent the remaining teeth from drifting into the gap, which would make it more difficult to clean the area.

Cantilever Bridge

Like traditional bridges, cantilever bridges restore your bite and ability to eat comfortably, as well as prevent other teeth from shifting out of place and causing misalignment issues. They are also an attractive cosmetic solution to help you regain your confidence in your smile.

While they are a popular option, cantilever dental bridges have some limitations. They work best for small gaps, and you must have one adjacent tooth that can serve as support. The adjacent teeth must also have good structural integrity, and they should not require major restorations. In addition, these types of bridges have a higher risk for damage, as they are only anchored on one side.

Before your dentist can install a cantilever bridge, they will administer a local anesthetic to the area around the missing tooth and the adjacent tooth that will serve as support. Next, they will prepare the adjacent tooth by removing a small amount of enamel to make room for the bridge.

Then, your dentist will create a bridge that fits the gap and attaches it to the adjacent tooth using dental cement. They may use CAD/CAM technology to craft the restoration in-house, or they will send it to a lab for fabrication. Finally, they will check the bridge to ensure it fits properly and that your gums are healthy before bonding it in place.

Resin-Bonded Bridge

The resin-bonded bridge is a conservative restoration method that doesn’t require removal of enamel from abutment teeth. In addition to this, resin bridges are extremely stable and have a very good long-term prognosis.

The first step in the procedure involves a consultation with your dentist to assess whether this type of bridge is appropriate for your case. A dental model, photographs and x-rays will be used in this assessment. Once you have agreed to move forward, a temporary crown will be fitted on your natural tooth, allowing the dentist to check how it fits and the abutment teeth for signs of damage and decay.

A thin groove is often made in the abutment tooth where the bridge will be placed. This helps the resin bonding process. During this time, the dentist will also take an impression of the prepared tooth. This is sent to the dental laboratory where the bonded bridge is designed and fabricated.

Studies on the long-term success of resin-bonded bridges have reported a high degree of patient satisfaction. It is however important to note that there is a wide range of definitions and opinions on what constitutes ‘success’ and failure in this type of restoration. This is largely due to the absence of trials with large cohort groups and long observation periods. The survival rates of resin-bonded bridges constructed with both fibre-reinforced composite and all-ceramic materials are similar to those of metal-framed bridges.

Three-Unit Bridge

A three unit bridge is a great option for replacing missing front teeth. It looks and feels like a natural tooth and prevents adjacent teeth from shifting into the gap. It also restores chewing and speech function. In addition, it can help to maintain a balanced bite and reduce the pressure on the remaining healthy teeth.

As with all bridges, they need to be supported by the surrounding teeth or implants. Therefore, it is important to keep these teeth in good shape to avoid damage or deterioration of the bridge. A bridge can become loose or fail if the abutment teeth suffer from decay or damage, especially at the ends of the bridge (the pontic). In general, all types of dental bridges require special oral hygiene considerations, because they have connections to the surrounding teeth that cannot be flossed normally.

Before a bridge is fitted, your dentist will have to file down the teeth either side of the missing space to prepare them for crowning. This can cause some discomfort and sensitivity, but it is relatively rare. If your abutment teeth are suffering from decay or infection, it can compromise the strength of the bridge and lead to further problems, including gum inflammation and even bone loss around the missing tooth area. In the future, it may lead to further treatment and a more costly replacement.