Bridging the Gap
Somewhat like the San Francisco or Brooklyn Bridge, dental bridges are used to span gaps, in this case specifically gaps between teeth. Gaps in your teeth may occur for any number of reasons. The most common are tooth decay, gum disease, and trauma.
Why a dental bridge?
A dental bridge may be an option when one or more teeth are missing and there are healthy teeth on both sides of the gap. Dental bridges may be used in lieu of other procedures for which you may not be a good candidate, such as dentures, dental implants, and porcelain crowns. Anyone who has been missing teeth for any period of time can attest to difficulty eating and speaking that having a gap may cause. Dental bridges can restore your smile, your ability to properly chew and speak, maintain the shape of your face, prevent remaining teeth from drifting out of position, and increase your self-esteem.
Are there different types of bridges?
There are 3 main types of dental bridges; traditional, cantilever, and resin-bonded (Maryland-bonded). Looking back to our examples of the San Francisco and Brooklyn bridges, both may span gaps, but they are entirely different in look and construction!
What are bridges made of?
- Traditional bridges are the most common type of dental bridge. They involve placing crowns on the teeth on either side of the gap to support the dental bridge. Then a false tooth (or span of up to 3 teeth) called a pontic is attached to the crowns to fill in the space.
- Cantilever bridges support the false tooth from only one end. True to its name, a Cantilever bridge is attached to one tooth and then hangs over, or cantilevers, beyond that one tooth without another tooth on the other end. Cantilever bridges are most often used when teeth are located on only one side of the gap or in areas of mouth like the front teeth, which are under less stress.
- Maryland-bonded bridges use the teeth adjacent to the gap to help support the missing tooth. To achieve this, a very thin piece of metal or tooth-colored material is bonded onto the back of the adjacent teeth. Running between these two bonded pieces is a tooth the fill space. Bonded bridges are the most conservative type of restoration, using only the adjacent teeth as support, and thus require less preparation.
There are 3 main types of materials for dental bridges.
What can I expect when I am getting a dental bridge?
- Porcelain fused to Metal (PFM) – is a tooth colored bridge that is usually used to restore back teeth where the forces of chewing and grinding are strongest
- All Porcelain - is the most aesthetic, looks most like natural teeth, and used almost exclusively for front teeth where the need for strength is not as critical.
- Metal – solid gold dental bridges are the most durable and offer a precise fit. The most obvious downside to gold bridges is their color, therefore are mainly used when a tooth-colored bridge is not a priority.
Now that you and your dentist have determined that you are a good candidate and decided on the best type of bridge for you, you can expect to have your bridge in about 2 dental visits!
Your first visit will be to fit your temporary bridge. Depending on the type of bridge you are getting, this may include trimming and sculpting of the teeth on either side of the gap, taking an impression of your teeth, and final selection of the tooth color. Once this is done, a temporary bridge is fitted so that the exposed teeth and gums will be protected.
Your second visit (a few weeks later, allowing time for the bridge to be made) will be to fit, check, and adjust your permanent bridge.
Dental bridges can last 5 to 15 years and even longer. With good oral hygiene and regular checkups, it is not unusual for the life span of a fixed bridge to be over 10 years.