A bridge is a type of dental appliance that is used to fill the gap in the mouth caused by missing teeth. It consists of one or more prosthetic teeth, attached to dental caps or crowns that fit over the healthy teeth adjacent to the gap, thus “bridging” it. Bridges can be of several types:
- Traditional – This bridge consists of two caps or crowns, between which are attached the prosthetic teeth. The crowns are then placed to cover the teeth on either side of the gap, and cemented into place.
- Resin-bonded bridge –This type of bridge has a metal band on the rear side, to which the replacement false teeth are permanently bonded, and is often used to provide additional strength when front teeth are missing.
- Cantilever bridge – This bridge utilizes only one cap or crown, and is used when there is only one healthy tooth adjacent to the gap.
It is important when teeth are lost to fill the gap, because otherwise the remaining teeth will shift to fill the space, causing potentially serious problems. Misaligned teeth are more difficult to clean properly, and thus more susceptible to decay and periodontal disease. Most patients who have lost teeth are candidates for dental bridges, but the success of the bridge depends on proper brushing and flossing after the bridge are in place.
What can you expect if you get a dental bridge?
Your dentist or prosthodontist starts with an examination, to make sure that the teeth on either side of the gap formed by the missing teeth are healthy enough to support a bridge. If they are, in the first visit the dentist will administer a local anesthetic to numb the area, and then file down a little of the surface of the teeth adjacent to the gap, so that a cap or crown can fit over them. Then an impression is taken of your mouth. A temporary bridge is used to protect the exposed teeth and gums until the final bridge is ready.
The bridge is crafted either in the dental office or in a laboratory, and during your second visit the dentist removes the temporary bridge and cements the permanent bridge into place. The caps or crowns and the artificial tooth or teeth may then be polished to insure that they provide a proper bite, and that they match the appearance of your other teeth. Bridges should be cleaned every day by brushing and flossing. Regular dental visits and cleanings are also important, to make sure that the healthy teeth that anchor the bridge remain healthy.