If you have lost a tooth and a dental implant won’t work in your particular circumstances, bridges provide an alternative solution. A dental bridge offers a highly effective, stable, and fixed solution for replacing missing teeth. Unlike removable partial dentures that clasp on to the remaining teeth, a dental bridge relies on the support of crowns attached to teeth adjacent to the edentulous area (space without teeth) or strategically placed dental implants. In addition to restoring the look, feel, and function of a natural smile, they also prevent the teeth from shifting, thereby protecting the alignment of a patient's bite.
Far from a new idea, the history of replacing teeth with a fixed dental bridge goes back thousands of years. Ancient civilizations made impressive use of available materials, including animal and human teeth, bones, gold, and ivory, to fill gaps in a person's smile.
Fortunately, over the millennia, dental materials and technology have evolved. Today, dental bridges are fabricated from the highest quality of dental materials, including porcelain, porcelain fused to metal, and engineered ceramic products like zirconia. Now, in addition to being stronger and more durable than ever before, they appear more attractive and naturally beautiful.
Depending on the number of missing teeth, the health of the remaining dentition, and other factors, a dental bridge can replace a single missing tooth or multiple ones.
Traditional fixed bridge
A traditional fixed bridge typically requires the preparation and crowning of teeth on either side of the edentulous space. These crowned teeth function to support the artificial ones, known as “pontics,” that span the gap. In much the same way a bridge that extends over a body of water relies on the support of strong, sturdy pillars at each end, a dental bridge garners strength and stability from the terminal crowned teeth fused to a single or multiple pontics.
As the most advanced method for the replacement of missing teeth, dental implants come the closest to replicating the look, feel, and function of a natural smile. For this reason, an implant-supported bridge often represents the best option in care.
With an implant-supported bridge, there's no need to prepare, crown, or involve any adjacent natural teeth. Because dental implants behave in much the same way as the roots of natural teeth, they provide all the support a bridge requires.
In addition to providing a self-supporting solution for the replacement of missing teeth, Implant-supported bridges offer the most versatile approach for rebuilding a complete smile. Strategically placed dental implants can support any number of replacement teeth up to an entire set of upper or teeth.
Furthermore, as dental implants provide the same stimulation as actual roots to the surrounding jawbone, implant-supported bridges also help prevent the bone shrinkage that naturally occurs when teeth have been lost. This feature helps maintain normal facial contours.
Bridges fit over your existing teeth and are fixed, semi-permanent fixtures that don’t require nightly removal. They are typically made of ceramic over metal or zirconia for those with metal allergies. Proper home care is essential to maintaining the health of the teeth and gums around your bridge.
Fixed bridges are typically fabricated over the course of multiple visits. The process involves the preparation of the supporting teeth, 3D scanning, the placement of a temporary bridge, and the try-in and cementation of the permanent restoration.
It begins with a complete diagnostic workup to develop an appropriate treatment plan. For patients getting a traditional fixed bridge, the next step in the procedure involves preparing the abutment (supporting) teeth for full-coverage crowns. Depending on the number of teeth involved and other factors, an impression for the permanent bridge can get taken this visit or the next one. Either way, a temporary bridge or temporary crowns to cover the prepared teeth will get placed to protect the prepared teeth.
Following the preparation of the involved teeth, it's not unusual to experience some sensitivity and gum soreness. This discomfort typically subsides. However, since the fit of a temporary restoration is often less precise than the final permanent crown or bridge, you may still feel some residual sensitivity until treatment is completed.
Until the permanent crown or bridge is placed, it's essential to be extra careful. Temporary restorations are far less durable than permanent ones. If your temporary gets damaged or comes off, please hold on to it. Contact our office, and we will set up an appointment to replace it. Do not attempt to do this on your own.
Before cementing your new bridge, the shade, contours, fit, and occlusion are checked. Once that is done, your new, permanent restoration is placed. Since you have been wearing a temporary, your bite may feel slightly different, and you may feel some pressure as the new restoration reestablishes appropriate contact with the adjacent teeth. If the bite still feels slightly off after a couple of days or any discomfort persists, get in touch with our office. You may still require a minor adjustment.
Surgery to place the dental implants is typically considered a minor surgical procedure and performed on an outpatient basis. However, the exact extent of the procedure depends upon the type and number of dental implants and whether or not any additional procedures are required to prepare the supporting bone.
To facilitate the precise placement of dental implants for your implant-supported bridge, we'll take several detailed diagnostic records, including 3D images of your jaws and the involved area.
Patient care and comfort are our top priorities. We do everything we can to put you at ease and make every visit to our office both comfortable and stress-free. Prior to placing your dental implants, we'll discuss the anesthesia, options in dental sedation, and provide detailed pre-op and post-op care instructions.
Once the dental implants for your bridge are placed, it can take a few months for them to fully integrate with the surrounding bone. In some cases, a same-day temporary bridge can get placed to provide an immediate and cosmetically pleasing look. However, the permanent bridge typically gets placed when healing and osseointegration (fusion) with the surrounding bone are complete.
Bridges usually take several appointments to complete. In the first visit, the teeth are prepared and a temporary restoration is placed. Temporary bridges are placed to protect the teeth while the custom restoration is being made. Since the teeth will be anesthetized, the tongue, lips and roof of the mouth may be numb. Please refrain from eating and drinking hot beverages until the numbness is completely worn off.
Occasionally a temporary bridge may come off. Call us if this happens and bring the temporary bridge with you so we can re-cement it. It is very important for the temporary to stay in place, as it will prevent other teeth from moving and compromising the fit of your final restoration. To keep your temporaries in place, avoid eating sticky foods (gum), hard foods, and if possible, chew on the opposite side of your mouth. It is important to brush normally, but floss carefully and do not pull up on the floss, which may dislodge the temporary restoration. Instead, pull the floss out from the side of the temporary bridge.
It is normal to experience some temperature and pressure sensitivity after each appointment. The sensitivity should subside a few weeks after the placement of the final restoration. Mild pain medications may also be used as directed by our office.
If your bite feels uneven, if you have persistent pain, or if you have any other questions or concerns, please call our office.
Your new bridge is customized to the exact specifications of your smile. Before cementing to the underlying teeth or affixing it to the supporting implants, the shade, occlusion, and all aspects of its fit get carefully checked. In addition to being designed to blend seamlessly with your smile, it's also made to suit your bite and withstand all manner of oral function. We take great care to make sure your new restoration looks great, fits well, and that your bite feels comfortable.
Replacing missing teeth with a dental bridge is a worthwhile investment in the look, health, and function of your smile. While many dental insurances offer coverage for a dental bridge, and some toward the cost of implants, the benefits and amounts can vary significantly from plan to plan. At the office of Smiles Elevated, we understand the financial considerations involved in care and do all we can to help patients begin treatment without any additional stress or delay. In addition to doing our best to optimize your dental benefits, we also offer several payment and financing options. Feel free to contact our office if you have any questions on the cost of care, dental insurances, financing plans, or acceptable forms of payment.
Now that your new permanent crown or bridge is in place, it's essential to maintain good oral hygiene. With proper care, your new restorations will last for years to come. Make sure to brush and floss as instructed. We'll show you how to floss under your dental bridge to keep your new smile clean and bright. Remember to make appointments for your routine checkups and professional cleanings.
The standard answer is that with routine dental visits and good home care, a bridge can last ten to fifteen years, and in many cases, much longer.
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