What is a dental bridge?
A dental bridge is a way to replace missing teeth and is fixed inside your mouth and not removeable.
Dental bridges literally 'bridge the gap' created by missing teeth.
The classic bridge design is two crowns for the teeth either side of the gap, attached together via a false tooth in the middle.
Bridges do pose some additional considerations in the treatment planning phase and each individual will be assessed for their suitability.
What are the benefits of dental bridges?
Bridges can be made for a number reasons but firstly we
need to consider what may happen if a tooth is not replaced.
Cosmetics, missing teeth can be visible in the smile
Difficulty chewing properly
Over-eruption or tilting of neighbouring teeth
Increased stress and wear on other teeth
Loss of bone and support for your muscles and soft tissues
Sensitivity of other teeth
Problems with your jaw point
Further tooth loss
Increased risk of decay and gum disease
It is important to understand that these are potential consequences which may or may not happen to you.
How long do dental bridges last?
We would hope a bridge would last you 10-20 years, or even longer in some cases.
Well-planned and executed bridges may last longer, but there are many factors that will influence the success and longevity of your bridge.
The main factors that affect the success of your bridge are listed below:
The quality of the supporting teeth
The bridge design
The length of bridge
The types of material used
How well you look after it
The biting forces you place upon it
So a successful bridge relies on the correct diagnosis, choice of bridge and you!
What is a bridge made up of?
Before we move onto the different types of bridges, it is important to understand the different components of the bridge and some of the terms used.
Abutment – the teeth or implants that support the bridge either side
Retainer – the crowns that are on top of the supporting teeth
Pontic – the false tooth or teeth
Units – the number of teeth are involved in the bridge, for example for one missing tooth there would be one false tooth and two suppoting teeth, hence a 3-unit bridge.
What types of bridge are there?
There are a few different types of bridge that can be used. These bridges are given as options on an individual basis as there is no 'one size fits all' option. Once you have had your consultation, your dentist can discuss the options that are available for you.
This is the most commonly used bridge and utilises two single crowns either side of the space holding a false tooth in the middle. The supporting structures around the missing teeth can be teeth or implants, but not a combination of the two.
This type of bridge uses one tooth on one side only to hold the false tooth. In some cases two teeth on the same side can be used. This type of bridge needs careful assessment to deem whether you are suitable.
This is also called a Maryland or sticky bridge. This is used in cases where the teeth cannot be prepared and utilises a wing stuck with a special cement to the back of one or more of your teeth. This is most commonly used for front teeth as a temporary measure during implant treatment.
What materials can bridges be made from?
Bridges and crowns are made from similar materials
Porcelain fused to metal - These have been the staple material for crowns and bridges for many years and with good reason. They look good and are very strong. They have a proven track record for success for all teeth.
Zirconia - Zirconia is a very popular material, some bridges are made purely of zirconia making them very hard. The advantage is that you do not need to remove too much tooth as the material is very strong in thin sections. As they are milled from one block sometimes colour matching can be tricky.
Gold - Gold is the 'gold standard' for teeth! It wears at a similar rate as teeth and does not cause any damage to the opposing teeth. Gold is the most durable, predictable and best tolerated of all the crown materials.
All ceramic - All ceramic bridges look very good and natural which makes them aesthetically appealing. Without the metal substructure they have improved optical qualities - the way light passes through the tooth. These normally have a zirconia core which is then layered with porcelain to make them look like a natural tooth.
What type of bridge is best for me?
Assuming that a bridge is the right option for restoring your gap, how do you decide which type of bridge is best?
On you consultation your dentist will discuss the options with you and advise you which replacement options is best for you based on the status of your teeth. The factors that they will consider are:
The state of the supporting teeth and whether they have been restored, root treated or are untouched teeth
The position of the tooth
Where the gap is in your mouth
The look of the bridge and your aesthetic
What are the alternatives?