Missing teeth can cause a large number of problems, from impacting your appearance and self-confidence to making it difficult to eat or speak. One way to solve these problems is by replacing the missing tooth or teeth with a dental bridge.
A bridge is a prosthesis (replacement part) that spans the gap with one or more artificial teeth. The artificial tooth is called a “pontic” after the French “pont” for bridge. The healthy adjacent teeth, called abutments, provide support on either side – just like a bridge spanning a canyon.
In order for the abutment teeth to provide this crucial support, they must be crowned or “capped.” First, the abutment teeth are prepared by removing their enamel and creating enough space for the crowns to fit over them and completely cover them. The crowns on the abutment teeth will be attached to the pontic in between. The pontic is really just another crown; the difference is that it has no tooth underneath.
Building a Bridge
If you have one missing tooth, your bridgework will require two crowns and a pontic. The crowns will cover abutment teeth on either side of the gap caused by the missing tooth. These two crowned abutment teeth will then become supports for the pontic placed in between them, filling the empty space. This arrangement is known as a three-unit bridge.
If more than one tooth is missing, more crowns will be needed to bridge the gap in between the abutment teeth. More abutment teeth may also be needed to support the longer bridge. Our dentists will consider the number of missing teeth, the size and length of the abutment tooth roots, the amount of bone support each abutment tooth has, as well as the location of the missing teeth to determine the best type of bridge to create. For example, if you have three missing teeth, four abutment teeth may be necessary, thereby creating a seven-tooth bridge. Understanding how to replace teeth requires an understanding of the biology of the gums and bone tissue as well as how to engineer and design a bridge.
What to Expect
Getting bridgework usually takes two visits to the dentist. During your first visit, we will prepare your abutment teeth, using local anesthesia to minimize any discomfort from drilling. We will then take a mold of your prepared teeth using a putty-like impression material, or we may create a 3D model using digital scanning equipment. The 3D models of your teeth will aid the dental laboratory technicians who will make your bridge. We will give you a temporary bridge to wear before you leave the office.
At your next visit, we may be ready to cement your permanent bridge in place. A brief transition period may follow as you become accustomed to the feel of the new bridge against your lips, tongue, and cheeks.
Crowns and bridgework require the same home care as all your other teeth. Be sure to brush and floss all of your teeth – natural and replacement – every day to reduce the build-up of dental plaque. When you have a bridge, it’s even more important to keep your appointments for cleanings at the dental office. A well-maintained bridge can last for a long time.
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