Bridges

What Are Bridges?

Introduction

Dental bridges are a cornerstone in restorative dentistry, offering a practical solution for replacing missing teeth. As the name suggests, a dental bridge literally bridges the gap created by one or more missing teeth. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of dental bridges, their types, how they work, benefits, and considerations for those contemplating this dental solution.

Understanding Dental Bridges

A dental bridge consists of two or more crowns for the teeth on either side of the gap (these are called abutment teeth) and a false tooth/teeth in between (these are called pontics). The false teeth can be made from various materials such as gold, alloys, porcelain, or a combination of these materials.

Fishers Dentistry's Complete Guide to A Dental Bridge

The Procedure for Getting a Dental Bridge: An In-Depth Look

Getting a dental bridge is a multi-step process that requires precision, skill, and attention to detail. This procedure is crucial for those seeking to restore their smile after losing one or more teeth. Here’s a detailed breakdown of each step involved in getting a dental bridge.

1. Preparation of Abutment Teeth

  • Initial Examination: The dentist first examines the health of your gums and the strength of the teeth that will support the bridge.
  • Recontouring: The abutment teeth (the teeth on either side of the missing tooth space) are prepared by removing a portion of enamel. This shaping is necessary to provide enough room for a crown to be placed over them without affecting the bite.
  • Protecting Nerve Health: Care is taken to minimize the amount of tooth reduction and to protect the health of the tooth’s nerve during this process.

2. Impressions

  • Creating a Mold: Once the abutment teeth are prepared, a mold or impression of the teeth is made. This impression is crucial as it serves as a precise model for the bridge, pontic (false tooth), and crowns.
  • Details for Customization: The impressions are sent to a dental laboratory where the bridge will be fabricated. The dentist also selects the shade of the bridge to match the color of the existing teeth for a natural appearance.

3. Temporary Bridge

  • Immediate Protection: A temporary bridge or crown is made and placed over the prepared teeth. This temporary cover protects the exposed teeth and gums and maintains the space where the permanent bridge will be placed.
  • Adjusting to the Temporary Bridge: The temporary bridge also allows you to adjust to the new shape and feel of your teeth while the permanent bridge is being made.

4. Final Bridge

  • Fitting the Permanent Bridge: Once the permanent bridge is ready, the temporary bridge is removed. The new bridge is then carefully checked and adjusted to ensure a proper fit.
  • Ensuring Comfort and Functionality: Multiple visits may be necessary to check the fit of the framework and bite. This is to ensure that the bridge does not affect your bite and feels comfortable in your mouth.
  • Cementing the Bridge: Once the fit is confirmed, the bridge is cemented into place. This final step ensures that the bridge is securely attached, restoring the full functionality of your teeth.

5. Post-Procedure Care

  • Adjustment Period: It’s normal to need some time to get used to the feel of a new bridge.
  • Follow-Up Visits: Regular follow-up visits are necessary to check the bridge and the health of the supporting teeth and gums.
  • Oral Hygiene: Proper care includes brushing, flossing, and using antiseptic mouthwash, as well as regular professional cleanings.

Benefits of Dental Bridges: A Closer Examination

Dental bridges, beyond being a cosmetic solution for missing teeth, offer a range of functional and health benefits. Understanding these advantages can help patients appreciate the full value of opting for a dental bridge. Let’s delve into each benefit in more detail.

1. Restoring Your Smile: Enhancing Aesthetics

  • Visual Appeal: The most immediate benefit of a dental bridge is the restoration of your smile. A gap from missing teeth can be visually unappealing and may affect self-esteem. A bridge fills these gaps, restoring the natural appearance of your smile.
  • Customization: Bridges are designed to match the color, shape, and size of your natural teeth, ensuring they blend seamlessly and enhance your overall appearance.

2. Restoring the Ability to Chew and Speak Properly: Functional Restoration

  • Chewing Efficiency: Missing teeth can significantly impair your ability to chew food properly. Dental bridges restore this functionality, allowing you to eat a wide range of foods comfortably and efficiently.
  • Speech Improvement: Teeth play a crucial role in speech. Missing teeth can affect your pronunciation and clarity. By replacing these gaps, bridges help in restoring normal speech, making it easier to pronounce words correctly.

3. Maintaining the Shape of Your Face: Structural Benefits

  • Preventing Bone Loss: Tooth loss can lead to bone loss in the jaw, causing changes in facial structure and premature aging. Bridges help maintain the natural shape of your face by supporting the jawbone and preventing bone resorption.
  • Facial Symmetry: By maintaining the integrity of the jaw and supporting structures, dental bridges also help in preserving facial symmetry and preventing the sunken look that often accompanies tooth loss.

4. Distributing Forces in Your Bite: Oral Health Preservation

  • Balanced Bite: A missing tooth can lead to an uneven distribution of bite forces, which may cause extra strain on other teeth. By filling the gap, bridges help distribute these forces more evenly, reducing the risk of damage to other teeth.
  • Protecting Remaining Teeth: This even distribution of biting forces also helps protect the remaining natural teeth from excessive wear or damage.

5. Preventing Remaining Teeth from Drifting: Alignment Maintenance

  • Preventing Misalignment: When a tooth is missing, the adjacent teeth may gradually shift towards the gap. This movement can lead to misalignment, affecting your bite and leading to other dental issues.
  • Stability for Adjacent Teeth: By filling the gap, a dental bridge provides stability to the adjacent teeth, keeping them in their proper position and preventing potential alignment issues.

Oral Hygiene for Dental Bridges: Ensuring Longevity and Health

Maintaining optimal oral hygiene is crucial for the longevity and effectiveness of a dental bridge. Proper care involves a comprehensive routine that includes brushing, flossing, using antiseptic mouthwash, and adhering to regular professional cleanings. Let’s explore each of these components in detail.

1. Brushing: The Foundation of Oral Care

  • Technique: Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently brush all surfaces of the teeth and bridge. This includes the front, back, and chewing surfaces.
  • Frequency: Brush at least twice a day, ideally in the morning and before bed, to remove plaque and prevent tartar build-up.
  • Toothpaste: Use fluoride toothpaste to help strengthen the teeth and prevent decay, especially around the areas where the bridge meets the natural teeth.

2. Flossing: Cleaning Beneath the Bridge

  • Special Tools: Utilizing tools like floss threaders or water flossers can be particularly helpful for cleaning under and around a dental bridge.
  • Technique: Carefully thread the floss between the bridge and the gumline, as well as between the natural teeth. Gently move it back and forth to remove plaque and food particles.
  • Frequency: Floss daily to maintain gum health and prevent plaque accumulation in hard-to-reach areas.

3. Using Antiseptic Mouthwash: Additional Protection

  • Types: Choose an antiseptic or fluoride mouthwash to kill bacteria and reduce plaque formation.
  • Usage: Rinse with mouthwash once or twice a day after brushing and flossing to reach areas that brushing and flossing might miss. It also helps in reducing the risk of gum disease and tooth decay.

4. Regular Professional Cleanings: Essential Maintenance

  • Dental Checkups: Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups. These visits are crucial for cleaning areas difficult to reach at home and for monitoring the health of your bridge.
  • Frequency: Typically, professional cleanings are recommended every six months, but your dentist might suggest a different schedule based on your individual needs.

5. Additional Tips for Maintaining a Dental Bridge

  • Avoid Hard Foods: Be cautious with hard or sticky foods that could damage the bridge.
  • Stop Smoking: Smoking can negatively impact oral health, increasing the risk of gum disease, which can undermine the stability of your bridge.
  • Monitor for Changes: Pay attention to changes in fit or comfort of the bridge and report any issues to your dentist immediately.