What are dental bridges?
Dental bridges are the fixed restorations (restorations that aren’t removable i.e. stay in the mouth) that replace one or more missing teeth. They consist of a false tooth that anchors to the adjacent teeth, typically this is a dental crown either side and known as a ‘fixed 3 unit’ dental bridge. A bridge may be done using natural teeth, as I have just mentioned, or have false teeth attached to dental implants- unsurprisingly this is called an implant bridge or implant retained bridge. They can sometimes be fixed just to one side- this is known as a cantilever bridge, a Maryland bridge or a sticky bridge depending on how it’s attached. The use of dental bridges is determined by the number of good supporting teeth or implants and the size of the space. Sometimes they attach many teeth together, but where possible it is preferable to have separate bridges, just in case one part fails in which case it can be replaced, without replacing the whole thing- which can be very costly. Since dental bridges depend on the adjacent teeth to anchor to, it’s very important that the gums and teeth that are adjacent to the missing one are healthy and have sufficient bone to support this fake tooth.
What are the different types of dental bridges?
Dental bridges are intended to be a permanent solution (i.e. can’t be removed). There are different types of bridges. They are:
- Traditional bridges (these involve crowns either side)
- Cantilever bridges (attached on one side only)
- Maryland bonded bridges (anchored by sticking to the tooth- not crowning- less reliable and predictable but useful in certain circumstances)
Bridges can be composed of different materials, as well. They can be:
- All porcelain:
- emax bridges
- zirconia bridges
- layered zirconia bridges
- Porcelain fused to metals (this has been the most common bridge choice for dentists for many years)
- Metal (gold, silver, or alloy) less commonly used these days for aesthetic reasons
Why do I need a dental bridge?
Aside from aesthetic purposes (e.g. restoring your smile and enhancing self-confidence), dental bridges will restore the way you bite and chew, reducing wear on other teeth and helping keep things as they are. Spaces can over time lead to shifting teeth and tilting teeth that can be hard to clean and cause problems with your jaw and bite. Replacing missing teeth with bridges also prevents the shape of your face from changing as unsupported cheeks and lips tend to fold in which can cause a premature ageing appearance. The more teeth missing, the more pronounced this tends to be and the older you get, the more collagen you naturally lose and the more exaggerated this becomes. If the missing tooth is at the front, speech can occasionally be affected and if you are wearing a denture this tends to be a more common problem as it alters the position of your tongue. Most people adapt and over time with a bit of practice things return to normal. When dental bridges also correct your bite (or essentially maintain it), they prevent your other teeth from moving out of their position, which if it occurs may lead to something called TMJ disorder.
What happens when I go to the dentist?
Your Maroubra dentist will first examine your mouth and ask you questions about the space. They will then discuss all the options with you for missing teeth and take x-rays to see which of these options are available for your situation. Alternatives to dental bridges include partial dentures; these can be acrylic dentures, cobalt chrome dentures, flexi-dentures or dental implants. We will discuss the pros and cons, the costs and help you make a decision you feel comfortable with. The dentist may want to take an impression of the gap made by the missing tooth and the adjacent teeth as well as taking photographs to assess your case in more detail.
How do I take care of my dental bridge?
With good oral hygiene, regular visits, and professional cleanings by your Maroubra dentist, your dental bridge can last for 10 years or longer. We aim for 20 but you should be aware there are many factors that influence the length the bridge lasts: brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing properly every night is important whether you have a bridge or not. Specifically for bridges you need to be using a bridge needle or floss threader, a specialised floss for cleaning dental bridges with a harder piece of floss that can be pushed under the bridge to allow it to be flossed. This is critical to maintaining a healthy bridge, as this is the only way to remove plaque from these areas. Using fluoride toothpaste is also recommended (as always) to keep your teeth strong and mineralised. Remember, dental bridges rely on the adjacent teeth for support. So, it’s imperative that you keep your natural teeth healthy, too. If you have any questions please ask, we will be more than happy to help show you the proper procedure to clean your dental bridge.