In North America, a significant number of adults have one or more missing teeth. This can occur due to trauma from accidents, decay, structural damage of the tooth, gum and bone disease, or from a medical condition. The loss of one or more teeth can lead to a number of problems. This can include but is not limited to: loss of function, tipping and rotation of adjacent teeth, loss of facial form, loss of an aesthetic smile, improper phonetics, and greater strain on the remaining teeth. In certain situations, a bridge can be an excellent choice for replacing these missing teeth.
What is a dental bridge?
The name says it all. If we want to get from one side of the river to the other, we need two solid river banks to support a bridge to span the gap. Through our dental goggles, that looks like two solid teeth with healthy supporting structures (gums and bone) acting as river banks to support a bridge. A dental bridge is created by carefully reshaping the teeth on either side of the gap. Once the teeth on either side of the gap are reshaped, we can use them to help support the false tooth/teeth between them. This is a bridge.
Is a bridge better than an implant? What is my best choice?
That depends on the situation. There are many advantages to having an implant over a bridge, however there can be times when a bridge is a better choice than an implant. If someone is a smoker, has a medical condition like diabetes, has inadequate quantity or quality of bone or attached gingiva for the implant site, or the adjacent teeth to the gap need crowns as well, then a bridge may be the better choice for the individual. Also, the conventional bridge does not require the surgery that an implant does and can be completed over a much shorter time period (typically 2 weeks).
How long do bridges last?
The life span of a conventional bridge can be anywhere from 5 to 15 years, but I have seen bridges that are 30+ years old as well. There are a number of factors that would determine the life span of a bridge. Generally, a longer bridge (the greater the number of teeth that are part of the bridge) and abutments (pillars) that have a preexisting root canal, will result in a bridge that lasts for a shorter period of time. Other factors that are also important include the amount and direction of forces being applied, the proper home care and professional cleanings being done, how structurally sound the abutment (pillars) are to start, and the health of the gums and bone surrounding the bridge. The best way to determine the best choice for you is to simply ask us and we can have a discussion. Based on your needs and desires, together we can determine what is the best route to take.
Can a bridge be replaced?
Generally, they can be replaced (as long as the teeth (pillars) that are holding the bridge are still healthy).
Is getting a bridge painful?
Having a dental bridge done is similar to other procedures in a dental office. We will do everything we can to make the procedure as comfortable as possible. The bridge usually takes two appointments to complete. During the first appointment, here at Braeside Dental Centre, we will use a devise called a Wand. This is a special instrument that will help deliver the anesthesia (freezing) in a way that most of our patients find much more comfortable. I have been asked many times what just happened after the patient just received the freezing. To a lot of surprise, I tell them that they just got the freezing. To which they say, “no needle?”. Not quite, but a lot more comfortable. Once the tooth is frozen, there should be no discomfort during the procedure. The patient will leave the first appointment with a temporary bridge that is secured with a soft cement. We ask patients to be careful with this temporary bridge, as it is designed to come off after a couple of weeks. Most patients tell us that the procedure was better than they expected and after a couple of days things are back to being mostly normal. Once in while, it may take a little longer for the teeth to settle down. This usually occurs when the decay was very deep and close to the nerve or if someone grinds and clenches their teeth (it can cause further trauma to the tooth). After a couple of weeks, the patient returns for us to deliver the bridge. During the delivery, we generally do not freeze the area, as sensitivity is limited to a shorter period of time. Once the process is complete, the bridge will be installed and the dental arch’s form, function and aesthetics will be reestablished, so patients can simply forget that it was done.
Is the bridge permanent?
When most patients ask that question, they are usually wondering if the bridge is something they have to take in and out of their mouth or if it is fixed (permanently). To answer, bridges are fixed to the adjacent teeth and are not to be taken in and out. Of course, nothing is permanent, but bridges in general can be comfortable and restore the patient’s teeth and smile to their previous form and function.
How do I take care of a bridge?
That is an excellent question, as caring for the bridge will ultimately lead to the bridge lasting longer. Similar to your natural teeth, it is important to brush and floss after every meal and come in for your regular maintenance appointments and fluoride varnish. However, the bridge does require one further step. It is very important to floss under the pontic (false tooth) on a regular basis. Don’t worry though, this step is something we can go over with you.