If you are missing single or multiple teeth, your dentist may suggest filling that space with a dental prosthesis. A dental prosthesis will be necessary for aesthetic and functional reasons, and also for health. Nowadays, there are different options, such as the dental bridge, partial denture, or the dental implant and crown.
A dental bridge is a dental prosthesis that covers the edentulous space that remains when one or more teeth are missing. The dental professional will indicate this treatment when there are one or more missing teeth.
A dental bridge consists of a framework based on bonded crowns with a similar appearance to that of a natural tooth. If you have lost some teeth in an accident or your teeth had to be removed due to tooth decay or periodontal disease, a dental bridge can bring your smile back.
Dental bridges have a wide variety of materials and finishes, among them we have; porcelain fused to metal, porcelain, or zirconia. However, Porcelain and Zirconia fixed prostheses are more expensive due to the materials used and the laboratory work they require.
The material of choice will depend on the missing tooth or teeth and the patient’s budget.
Advantages of a Dental Bridge
- Dental bridges are cheaper than a dental implant
- They are long-lasting
- They are easy to keep clean
- Dental bridges help prevent mobility of neighboring teeth
- Dental bridges improve function and patient’s aesthetics.
Disadvantages Of a Dental Bridge
- It is necessary to prepare the neighboring teeth with the use of dental burs.
- In the event of bone resorption, it is more difficult to achieve excellent aesthetics.
- More expensive than a removable appliance
- The metal used for the structure of the fixed bridge can stain the gums and teeth.
- Leaks between the fixed bridge and the dental structure can occur and lead to decay.
- Mobility may occur in the dental bridge due to excess of mechanical forces during function.
When Is a Dental Bridge Required?
The main reason a patient would require a dental bridge treatment is if he/she has one or more missing teeth.
Dental bridges help restore function and aesthetics by replacing the missing tooth with a natural-looking dental prosthesis.
Procedure of Dental Bridge Treatment
Two to three appointments are generally needed, and it can take about two weeks starting from the first appointment to finishing your dental bridge.
Phase 1. Dental evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment planning
The dental professional will check the patient’s general and dental background to ensure he/she is an ideal candidate for this procedure.
He will perform an intra and extra oral assessment and take X-rays of the teeth to obtain a correct diagnosis and treatment plan. It is important to discuss possible options with patients, including the type and design of the bridge, to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each option.
Phase 2. Teeth preparation
Most bridges rest on healthy teeth (pillar teeth) on both sides of the gap. The dental professional will prepare and shape the pillar teeth with special dental burs.
- The dentist will apply local anesthesia in the tooth area and surrounding tissues. Once the surrounding area is numb, the dental preparation starts.
- He will take a dental impression, and a temporary bridge will be cemented, which will help protect the prepared teeth.
- The dentist will send the impression to the dental laboratory, and the dental technician will fabricate the bridge.
Phase 3. Bridge cementation
The last appointment of the dental bridge procedure can occur as soon as the dental laboratory finishes the bridge. It usually takes between 2-3 weeks.
- A local anesthetic is generally applied at the beginning of this appointment to increase patient comfort.
- Before the dentist cements the permanent dental bridge, he will remove the temporary prosthesis and will clean the underlying teeth with a special cleaning agent.
- The bridge will be tried in the patient’s mouth and adjusted if necessary. If there are no changes, the dentist will cement the bridge with a composite-based cement.
- There may be a need for some final adjustments to the bridge in some cases.
Phase 4. Maintenance
Postoperative surveillance and follow-up appointments are essential in the dental bridge treatment to make sure that the patient knows what to expect and is aware of how to take care of his restoration. For this reason, the dentist will take some time to explain the details and unique characteristics of the dental bridge, including required oral care and in which situations it is necessary to visit the dental office.
With the proper maintenance, a bridge can last longer than ten years.
Postoperative Instructions For Dental Bridge Treatment
- Avoid chewing any food until the numbness has entirely disappeared.
- Your dentist may prescribe analgesics if pain or discomfort is persistent
- Maintain excellent oral care before and after the procedure
- Floss at least once a day
- Visit your dentist regularly
Post-Treatment Care For Dental Bridge Treatment
- Good oral hygiene habits
- Brush your teeth three times a day
- Floss at least once a day.
- Use a mouthwash at least once a day.
- Tongue scrapers: As an aid to remove food remains in the back of the tongue.
- Visit your dentist for regular check-ups and professional cleanings; this is the best way to make sure you are maintaining good oral hygiene and to check the status of your dental restoration.
There are advantages and disadvantages of both dental bridge treatments:
- It is easier to keep your oral cavity healthy with an implant. Dental bridges require at least three crowns to be connected to fill the space of the missing tooth. This design is challenging when brushing your teeth and especially flossing, so additional oral hygiene instructions and meticulous home care are necessary.
Implants can replace teeth individually without affecting other teeth, making oral hygiene more comfortable. You can effectively brush and floss your implant crown just like any of your natural teeth.
- Dental implants last longer than dental bridges. Because of titanium, dental implants are very resistant to deterioration and any gum problem. Dental bridges last approximately from ten to fifteen years. A part of your natural tooth stays under the bridge, and wear due to occlusal forces can make the bridge fail more easily over time.
- Both treatments can have excellent aesthetic results, but this will depend on the condition of the gums, bone, and adjacent teeth. Also, the dental technique and patient’s compliance play a significant role in the final results.
- The dental bridge costs less, but it may be necessary to replace it at some point. Implants are more expensive but can cost less over time.
You can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both procedures with your dental professional. He will know which is the best option for you and has the tools and knowledge to help you choose the right treatment.
Do’s and Don’ts For dental bridge treatment
- Do maintain good oral hygiene
- Do visit your dentist for regular follow-up check-ups.
- Don’t chew or bite any hard objects
- Don’t eat hard or sticky foods for three days after the procedure.
Myths About Dental Bridge Treatment
Myth #1. Dental bridges last for a lifetime
Myth. Dental bridges last for a long time but not for life. You have to take care of them as much as your teeth, since misuse and improper cleaning can generate problems in the prosthesis, like maladjustments, decay, fracture, etc.
If proper oral hygiene is not maintained, gum disease can appear.
Myth #2. A dental bridge may fall off at any time.
Myth. The dentist cements dental bridges into the teeth with special cement, which makes them a long-lasting and definitive treatment. To prevent dental emergencies, it is necessary to go to a specialized and experienced dentist for the entire procedure to be successful. The dentist will follow the required protocols to make your prosthesis last for years.
Myth #3. Dental bridges are not aesthetic
Myth. Patients are sometimes afraid that a dental bridge will look different from other teeth, in color and shape.
Today, dental bridges are indistinguishable from natural teeth. New materials are durable and do not damage over time. Materials such as zirconium or porcelain can imitate the natural tooth with great accuracy.
Myth #4. Bridges are not a durable solution
Myth. If the dentist performs the dental bridge procedure using suitable materials, right protocols, and proper oral care, dental bridges can last for many years.
According to studies, more than 90% of patients who have chosen this treatment keep their dental bridge 15 years after the procedure.
Myth #5. Dental bridges increase the risk of gum disease.
Myth. A dental bridge itself will not cause gum disease. Patients with gum problems should keep in mind that these should have to be treated and controlled before placing a fixed prosthesis.
Once the dentist places the dental bridge, you must visit the dental office regularly for proper dental check-ups.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long will my dental bridge last?
Bridges have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. The most important thing is to have good oral hygiene to guarantee the duration of the bridge. If there is damage caused by dental disease on teeth, gums, or bone that support a bridge, the bridge will eventually loosen or fall.
To prevent damage to your bridge, it is best to avoid chewing hard foods or any hard object.
What is best, a dental implant or a dental bridge?
A few years ago, a dental bridge was the only option in the market, and it still encompasses more than just the missing tooth. The dentist will prepare adjacent teeth, which involves removing most of the enamel to make the prosthesis.
However, with dental implants, the dentist only restores the missing tooth with a stronger and long-lasting result, without touching the adjacent teeth.
The dental bridge may be the best option for patients in whom the adjacent teeth already have a dental crown or extended restoration because there is already a significant quantity of lost dental structure.
If the tooth or teeth have been missing for a long time, the gums and bone will be retracted, so procedures that go beyond the implant would be necessary before placement.
Do dental bridges hurt?
Dental bridges do not hurt. During the procedure, the dentist will apply local anesthesia to numb the area and avoid any pain or discomfort.
If discomfort appears after the procedure, this may have different causes:
- Some patients may experience discomfort and dental sensitivity to extreme cold or hot beverages shortly after the procedure.
- Swelling of the dental pulp and pain may appear if the dentist cements the bridge without first performing a root canal treatment in the pillar teeth.
- Patients who grind their teeth while sleeping could experience pain when pressing on any high point or area where the tooth protrudes more than desired.
Can a dental bridge be replaced?
The dentist cements dental bridges to pillar teeth. Over the years, adhesion, retention, and cement quality lose their initial properties, so dental bridges may need replacement.
Some characteristics indicate the need to change an old dental bridge and replace it with one with better and new conditions:
- Presence of gingival retraction. Gingival retraction in dental bridges is expected if there is poor oral hygiene. Insufficient oral hygiene will cause bacterial plaque to accumulate over time, and the gum will react to the presence of bacteria and retract.
- Change in color. The passage of time means that natural teeth can vary in tone, so there may be a color variability between the bridge and the teeth themselves.