What are dental bridges?
Dental bridges are custom fit/bespoke ceramic teeth, which are anchored onto neighbouring teeth in order to replace one or more missing teeth. The ceramic tooth is known as a pontic and is fused in between two teeth or crowns that serve as anchors by attaching to the teeth on each side of the ceramic tooth, thereby bridging them together.
What are the parts of a typical dental bridge (fixed)?
A dental bridge essentially consists of:
- A pontic or ceramic tooth used to replace the missing tooth, which is made from gold, alloys, porcelain or a combination of these materials.
- Two crowns – serving to anchor the false tooth in place.
When are dental bridges needed?
Bridges are recommended when there are one or more teeth missing that affect:
- Your smile and appearance.
- Your bite, as a result of adjacent teeth leaning into the space and altering the way the upper and lower teeth bite together.
- Your speech.
- The shape of your face.
- The rate of gum disease and tooth decay as a result of food accumulated in the gap.
Must missing teeth be replaced?
Yes, missing teeth must be replaced for many reasons:
- To improve your appearance.
- To reduce the strain on the teeth at either side of the missing tooth.
- To prevent the neighbouring teeth from leaning into the resulting gap and altering the bite.
- To prevent gum disease and tooth decay due to accumulation of food in the gap.
There are three main types of dental bridges:
1. Traditional fixed bridge
This is the most commonly used type of bridge and consists of a pontic fused between two porcelain crowns that are anchored on neighbouring teeth or implants. The pontic is usually made of either porcelain fused to metal or ceramics. These are fixed and cannot be removed.
2. Resin-bonded bridges or Maryland-bonded bridges
These are chosen when the gap to be filled is in between the front teeth, or when the teeth on either side of the missing tooth are strong and healthy without large fillings. The false tooth is made of plastic and is fused to metal bands that are bonded to the adjacent teeth using resin that is hidden from view.
3. Cantilever bridges
These are opted for in areas such as the front teeth that are susceptible to lower stress. Cantilever bridges are used when there are teeth present on only one side of the space, where the false tooth is anchored to one or more adjacent teeth on one side.
What are bridges made of?
Bridges may be made of:
- Porcelain bonded to precious metal.
- All-metal dental bridges (gold).
How are dental bridges fitted?
At the first appointment:
- The dentist will numb the area with a mild anesthetic.
- The teeth on either side of the space are prepared by trimming away a small area in order to accommodate the new crown over them.
- The dentist then uses dental putty to make an impression of the teeth, which will be used to make the bridge and crown in the laboratory.
- A temporary bridge is fitted in to protect the exposed gums and teeth.
- A Vita shade guide may be used to determine the right shade for the dental bridge, by selecting a shade that resembles natural colour variations in your teeth, as well as suits your complexion, hair colour, the colour of your natural teeth and even your eye colour.
- The temporary bridge is removed and the custom-made bridge is fitted, checked for its fit and bite, and adjusted accordingly. It is then cemented into place
- Multiple visits are often required to check and adjust the fit.
- In case of permanent or fixed bridges, the bridge is temporarily cemented for a couple of weeks and checked for its fit. It is permanently cemented only after several weeks.
How long will dental bridges last?
Dental bridges can last 10-15 years, provided that you maintain good dental hygiene and eating habits.
How to take care of your dental bridges?
Practice good dental hygiene:
- Clean the dental bridge every day to prevent tooth decay, bad breath and gum disease.
- Clean under the false tooth every day.
- Keep the remaining teeth healthy, as these serve as the foundation for the dental bridge.