Are you hiding your smile because of a few missing teeth? If you answered yes, you are not alone. In fact, the American College of Prosthodontists reports as many as 120 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. When you have a missing tooth, not only does it affect your smile, but it can affect how you chew as well as the alignment of your remaining teeth. When patients have missing teeth, a popular solution for years has been a dental bridge, but does this offer a permanent solution? While not necessarily permanent, a dental bridge provides a long-term solution that helps give you back your smile.
- Learn what a dental bridge is and how it replaces missing teeth
- Explore the different types of dental bridges
- Learn how to extend the life of your dental bridge
What is a dental bridge?
When you have all your teeth, they remain in place to provide the tools necessary to bite and chew. However, if you lose a tooth or multiple teeth, your remaining teeth can shift and change position, affecting your ability to bite a chew. A dental bridge, also known as a fixed partial denture, is a cosmetic dental restoration designed to replace missing teeth and help stabilize your natural teeth, restoring your smile and your function.
While the traditional dental bridge is fixed, a removable dental bridge option is also available. This type of dental bridge is still supported by dental crowns on each side of the missing teeth, but instead of being fixed into place, removable dental bridges and crowns pop into place over the supporting teeth. This allows you to remove the dental bridge for cleaning and is often cheaper than traditional bridges.
How does a dental bridge work?
A dental bridge is broken down into two pain parts: abutments and pontics. The abutment is the supporting structure and can be your natural teeth with a crown in place or a dental implant. The pontic is the false tooth or teeth designed to bridge the gap. The pontic is attached to the abutment in order to stabilize your new teeth, eliminating the gap and restoring your smile and your ability to bite and chew.
Are dental bridges permanent?
While a dental bridge can last anywhere from 10 to 30 years, they are not considered a permanent cosmetic dental solution. The length of time a dental bridge will last depends on many different factors, including:
- Overall oral health: A dental bridge needs a solid foundation and conditions such as gum disease or severe dental decay can affect how stable a dental bridge will be over time.
- Oral hygiene routine: With a dental bridge in place, it is important to follow a regular dental hygiene routine that includes regular dental checkups that allow your dentist to identify any potential concerns before they affect the stability of the dental bridge.
- Experience: The longevity of your dental bridge also depends on the expertise and skills of the dentist that put the dental bridge in place. Choosing a dentist that performs dental bridges on a regular basis and pays close attention to detail can help extend the life of your bridge.
Different types of dental bridges
When it comes to dental bridges, there are four main types you and your dentist may want to consider. Which type you and your dentist choose will depend on the current state of your oral health as well as the stability of supporting teeth.
A conventional or traditional bridge is the most common fixed dental bridge type. This type of bridge utilizes a crown on each of the supporting teeth that are then attached to the pontic, or fake tooth or teeth. As long as your natural teeth are strong and stable, this type of bridge provides the most strength, however, it does require the removal of some enamel on the supporting teeth in order to accommodate the crowns.
A cantilever bridge is slightly different in that it only uses an abutment for support. Similar to the conventional bridge, a natural tooth receives a crown that is attached to the pontic but, in this case, there is only one supporting tooth. This option is often considered when there is only one tooth surrounding the missing tooth or when the second supporting tooth is not healthy enough to support a bridge.
Developed by the University of Maryland, the Maryland bridge is designed for patients needing to replace missing teeth in the front of the mouth. This type of bridge does not use crowns on the supporting teeth but instead uses a metal framework that is bonded to the back surface of the teeth. This option eliminates the need to remove the enamel on the tooth as is necessary with a crown, but the adhesives are not always as strong and long-lasting as a traditional bridge. This type of bridge requires strong, healthy supporting teeth and good overall oral health.
An implant-supported bridge uses the same concept as a conventional bridge where neighboring teeth support the pontic. However, in this case, dental implants replace the natural teeth. This type of dental bridge is the most invasive as it requires oral surgery and the placement of implants. However, it can provide a strong, durable, and long-lasting dental restoration.
When do you need a dental bridge?
Even if a missing tooth or teeth are not causing you noticeable problems with eating or chewing, the fact is that missing teeth can cause oral health concerns that you can’t see immediately. When all your teeth are healthy and in place, they support each other, allowing you to chew and bite with ease. When you lose a tooth, a space opens up and your other teeth slowly seek out the room to explore.
A missing tooth creates that gap where other teeth can spread out or twist, affecting your natural bite. Over time, this movement can cause difficulty biting and chewing, as well as pain in the jaw and teeth. In addition, tooth movement can affect how you feel about your smile and lead to insecurities. While it may not seem important now, treating a missing tooth with a dental bridge can make a significant difference.
Frequently asked questions
We frequently get asked questions when it comes to dental bridges. Here we address some of the most common questions.
Can a permanent dental bridge be removed?
A dental bridge is generally attached to the supporting teeth with adhesives or dental cement, meaning that it is permanently attached to the teeth and cannot simply be removed. However, if the bridge is damaged or the surrounding teeth become decayed, it may be necessary for your dentist to remove and replace the dental bridge.
If you have a removable dental bridge where the crowns snap into place over the natural teeth, then you can remove the bridge for cleaning and brushing.
How common are dental bridges?
Dental bridges, in various forms, have been used for generations as a missing tooth replacement. While dental advances have provided alternative options, such as full dental implants, to replace missing teeth, dental bridges are still a common option and, unlike dental implants, dental bridges are often covered by dental insurance.
How long does a dental bridge last?
With proper care and a quality oral hygiene routine, dental bridges can last between 10 and 30 years depending on the materials used and the type of dental bridge.
How many teeth can be on a permanent bridge?
How many teeth a bridge can replace depends on the condition of the supporting teeth, the bite force in the area of the missing teeth, and the position of the teeth. In general, a dental bridge can support between two and four replacement teeth.
Restore your smile with a dental bridge
If you are missing one or a couple of teeth due to injury or decay, a dental bridge can be an effective tooth replacement option that can help stop the movement of your natural teeth, help you maintain your bite and ability to chew and give you back your smile.
Our team can help give you back your smile
At Soundview Family Dental, we understand the importance of a healthy smile, but we also understand that injury or decay can lead to tooth loss. While a missing tooth may not seem like it affects your everyday function, over time it can contribute to additional oral health complications. The team at Soundview Family Dental can help determine which cosmetic restorations, such as a dental bridge, can help replace your missing teeth and restore your smile. To learn more, contact us today to schedule an appointment.