A bridge is a dental appliance that replaces one or more natural missing teeth, thereby “bridging” the space between two teeth. Fixed bridges are cemented into place next to “abutment” teeth- the surrounding teeth on either side of the space or span. Unlike removable partial dentures, fixed bridges cannot be taken out of the mouth by the patient. A fixed bridge is a device that typically consists of three units- one or more pontics (a false or replacement tooth) fused between two crowns that are cemented to abutment teeth.
If you are missing any teeth and are committed to maintaining good oral hygiene practices, you may be a good candidate for a bridge. A bridge is the most natural choice to fill the space in your mouth left by missing teeth. This space can cause the surrounding teeth to drift out of position and can cause teeth and gums to become more susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease that can cause further tooth loss. Fixed bridges not only correct an altered bite, improve your chewing ability and speech, but they also safeguard your appearance by preventing the collapse of your facial features that can cause premature wrinkles and age lines.
Replacing multiple teeth using dental implants with individual crowns or with an implant-supported fixed bridge gives your teeth a level of fit, feel and functionality that is not possible with other treatment options. The process is often completed over multiple visits:
- Consultation and planning, including initial exam, imaging of your teeth, questions about your dental and medical history, and discussion of your treatment options.
- Placement of the dental implants that will be used to support your replacement teeth. Temporary teeth can be placed while the dental implant integrates with your natural bone to form a strong foundation for your replacement teeth. Most people return to work the next day, and any discomfort can typically be treated with commonly used pain medication.
- Placement of the abutments, or a small extension that will help connect your replacement teeth, on top of each implant, if needed.
- Placement of a fixed, implant-supported bridge, or custom-made replacement teeth (crowns).
Aftercare for the Bridge
With a bridge, it is more important than ever to brush, floss and see your dentist regularly. If you do not control the buildup of food debris and plaque- the sticky film of bacteria formed from acids in foods- your teeth and gums can become infected, requiring further treatment and resulting in possible loss of the bridge. Your dentist may also recommend using floss threaders that help remove bacteria from hard to reach spaces between the bridge and adjacent teeth and gums.
If you maintain optimal oral hygiene care, you can expect your fixed bridge to last as many as 10-15 years, or even longer.