A dental bridge (also called a fixed partial denture) replaces one or more missing or broken teeth with fake teeth. Decaying or missing teeth can affect a person’s appearance, ability to eat certain foods, and quality of life. Dental bridges restore the bite and smile. Bridges use one or more real teeth on either side of the gap to hold the fake teeth in place. Each fake tooth in a bridge is called a pontic and the real teeth holding the bridge are called abutments.
A dental bridge can replace one tooth or several teeth, and the fake teeth in dental bridges look and function like real teeth. A dental bridge can help a person feel more comfortable with their smile. It can also enable them to chew normally. When a person loses one or more teeth, it can affect their bite, causing pain or difficulty eating. Replacing those teeth prevents these complications.
Dentists use several types of bridges:
- A traditional bridge involves two crowns (abutments) anchoring the fake tooth or teeth. This is the most popular type of bridge.
- Maryland bridges are more conservative and less invasive than traditional or cantilever bridges. The bridge is anchored by metal or porcelain frameworks attached to the backs of teeth on either side of the gap. These bridges can preserve healthy teeth, but they are less secure.
- Implant-supported bridges use dental implants as anchors. This type of bridge is more expensive and invasive but more secure. Note: A bridge cannot be anchored to both a natural tooth and an implant. Both abutments must be either teeth or implants.
When a person gets a traditional bridge, the process begins by preparing the teeth on either side of the gap. The dentist will grind down these teeth, removing any decay. Next, they will take an impression of the mouth that will help with fitting the bridge.
The dentist may put a temporary bridge on the prepared teeth to protect them, or the temporaries will be placed on the abutments only. Once the real bridge is ready, the dentist removes the temporary structures and affixes the bridge using strong adhesives. It is crucial to return to the dentist within a few weeks to have the permanent bridge cemented.
The process is similar for cantilever bridges, though only one tooth will need a crown. A Maryland bridge requires less preparation, since no crowns are involved. Bridges involving natural teeth require at least two appointments.
When a person has implants to support a bridge, the process typically begins with implant surgery. Afterward, the dentist will take an impression of the mouth to create a bridge that fits over the implants seamlessly. The entire process can take anywhere from six months to a year from beginning to end.
Recovery and Care
During recovery a person’s mouth may feel tender and sore after a dentist grinds down the teeth. It may also feel sore after the placement of the bridge. The gums may be tender and bleed. For most people, this soreness goes away after a few days. However, the gums may need a few weeks to completely heal from the procedure. A person can return to work or school as soon as they feel well enough, and this is often the same day as the appointment.
To care for a bridge, it is important to practice excellent home care to prevent further decay. Our dental team at Barbara Bell DDS, PA can teach you how to care for your bridge using a variety of dental supplies. It is possible for a tooth to continue to decay under the crown that anchors the bridge. This is more common in people with serious gum disease or very severe cavities in the teeth that need crowns. You should see us at least twice a year so we can check the bridge and clean the teeth. Remember to ask Dr. Katie Bell if it is important to avoid certain foods.
All dental prostheses come with risks and benefits. Discuss these factors and all options thoroughly with Dr. Katie Bell to stay informed. We look forward to talking with you about your oral health.