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What are dental bridges?

Bridges are very similar to crowns in that it involves coverings or ‘caps’ for your teeth except that it also replaces any existing gaps that you have between your teeth. Similar to how a road bridge connects one area to the other, a dental bridge spans the gap between one tooth to another with dental crowns allowing for the gap to be closed. They are fabricated in a dental laboratory by a dental technician and then later cemented on. They are fixed in place and do not need to be taken in and out like a denture is.

They can also be made from a variety of materials, such as porcelain/ceramic, gold/metal or a combination of both. Each of them have their own advantages and disadvantages – your dentist will discuss the options with you specific for your case.

What are the types of dental bridges?

Traditional bridge
As the name suggests, this is the most common or traditional type of bridge in dentistry. These bridges are used when there is a tooth available on both sides of the gap.

Cantilever bridge
These bridges are mainly used when you only have a tooth available on one side of the gap. Specific circumstances can allow for it to be utilised when there are still teeth on both sides of the gap.

Maryland bridge
A bridge where the false tooth that covers the gap utilises one or two ‘wings’ that are connected to the inside of the teeth either side, rather than with dental crowns. Whilst more conservative than the other types of bridges, it is only suitable for specific circumstances.

Why would I need one?

Whilst having a missing tooth certainly isn’t the end of the world (perhaps unless it’s a front tooth!), there are potential consequences of leaving the gap as it is.

There are the more obvious issues with the unsatisfactory appearance of a missing tooth as well as decreased ability to chew food properly. The less obvious issues can occur over a longer period of time – with the presence of a gap, the surrounding teeth can shift and become misaligned. This can lead to gum problems, dental decay and sometimes the tooth that used to bite against the missing tooth can even erupt into the space left behind.

You may be interested in dental implants but may not have enough bone to support it. Dental implants can also require minor surgery and for some people this might not be suitable.. Bridges are also cheaper than implants.

What is involved in getting a dental bridge?

The fabrication of a dental bridge is very similar to a dental crown and will typically involve two appointments.

Firstly an examination is required to assess the tooth and the rest of your oral health. X-rays may be required to help further assess your teeth. This is to ensure that your specific case is suitable for a bridge. Your dentist will discuss the procedure in further detail and any risks specific to your case.

Local anaesthetic is used to help make the procedure as comfortable as possible. If you’re anxious about dental treatment, your dentist can discuss possible sedation options with you. Any decay and old filling is removed and the core part of the teeth may need to be built up to help support the bridge. The overall size of the teeth are made smaller to allow for the bridge to fit and then an impression is taken of your teeth. A temporary bridge will be made and placed as necessary.

At the next visit, the temporary bridge is removed and your new bridge is checked to make sure the colour matches with your other teeth and that it fits properly. It is cemented into place and then checked and adjusted as necessary to make sure it fits with the way you bite your teeth together.

It can be normal to have some discomfort and sensitivity once the anaesthetic has worn off – this typically resolves within a few days or so.

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How long do they last?

Similarly to crowns, there are a variety of factors involved which determines how long it will last. Most importantly it will require proper care with good oral hygiene and avoidance of putting excessive stress on it (such as tooth grinding and clenching, chewing on ice cubes etc) in order to get maximum life out of it.

How do I care for my dental bridge?

Just like crowns, the bridge itself won’t get dental decay but the area where the tooth joins the bridge can. Good oral hygiene with regular brushing and cleaning underneath the bridge will be required to help prevent decay and gum disease around it. Because the parts of the bridge are all connected as one piece, you won’t be able to floss normally as if it were a natural tooth or dental crown. It will require extra care and attention to ensure it is cleaned properly. Habits such as tooth grinding/clenching and chewing on ice cubes will place undue stress on the bridge and can shorten its lifespan.

Your dentist can discuss specific advice to help you get the most life possible out of your new dental bridge.