When You Need a Dental Bridge

When You Need a Dental Bridge

Permanent teeth are usually lost due to accident or decay. A missing tooth, depending on where it used to reside in the mouth, can be a social embarrassment, an inconvenience while eating, or both.

Dental bridges have been used successfully for decades to bridge the gap where one or more teeth have gone missing. Dental bridges restore the appearance and function of your missing teeth. And, they keep other teeth next to the gap from shifting out of place. Shifting teeth can change your bite and cause considerable discomfort as well as unsightly gaps between teeth.

A permanent bridge is just that – permanent. It’s anchored to the teeth next to the gap. The teeth that anchor the bridge are called abutments, similar to the abutments that anchor bridges over bodies of water or canyons. The “false” teeth that actually fill the gaps are known as pontics.

Installing a Dental Bridge

The abutment teeth have to be healthy enough to support the bridge. If they are, the process begins with removing enough of the enamel to allow those teeth to accept dental crowns. The crowns are part of the bridge and when they’re cemented to the teeth, the bridge stays firmly in place.

Next, the dentist will make a model of the abutment teeth and the gap. The model will allow the permanent bridge – the abutment crowns and the pontic – to be made. You’ll receive a temporary bridge, or in some cases temporary crowns, to protect the abutment teeth and gums while the bridge is being prepared. Depending on the particular dental lab, the preparation may take several weeks.

Once the bridge is ready, the temporary crowns are removed and the permanent bridge is cemented into place. That cement may be temporary or permanent depending on whether the dentist thinks that adjustments may be needed. Once everything is set, the bridge is permanently cemented.

It’s also possible to install a bridge where there’s only one tooth next to the gap. This is not recommended for the back of the mouth where the chewing pressure is highest.

What Bridges Are Made Of

Traditional bridges are made of porcelain or ceramic fused to metal. Either material allows a very realistic appearance, and the bridge should be largely undetectable once it’s installed. Some bridges are made entirely of ceramic.

Bridges are quite durable, but the abutment crowns may need to be replaced every 10 years or so. For many people, bridges are a very affordable option to regain a natural appearance and restore function.

You treat your bridge just like your other teeth by brushing and flossing. The techniques for flossing bridgework are different than for original teeth, and the staff will show you how to do this.

It’s crucial to keep the teeth next to the bridge in top shape. Any decay can cause the bridge to fail which would require additional appointment time and cost. And if the decay is too extensive for the tooth to the salvaged, a new bridge will have to be created and anchored to the next tooth in line, if there is one.

What About the Cost?

Dental insurance will often pay a portion of the cost of a bridge. The amount depends on your particular coverage. No two bridges are exactly the same, so the cost of your bridge will have to be determined once the specifications are known.

Other Alternatives

A bridge isn’t the only way to fill the gap left by missing teeth. Dental implants are actually a preferable option for some people.

Dental implants consist of two parts: the implant itself, which is a small metal screw made of a very strong material like titanium, and the crown. The implant is inserted into the bone below the missing tooth. Two or more implants can anchor a dental bridge – the ‘false” abutment crowns and the pontics – strongly and permanently. In fact, a series of implants can permanently anchor a full set of dentures.

To learn more about implants, visit our Dental Implants page.

Getting Started

Dr. Sykora will be happy to determine the best approach to restore the appearance and function of your missing teeth. To arrange a consultation, call our West Chester, Pennsylvania dental office at 610-314-7534 for an appointment. We’ll be happy to arrange a day and time that works best for you. Or, send us a message using our online form. A member of our team will get back with you as soon as possible.