What is a bridge?
Dental bridges are restorations that replace a missing tooth or missing teeth. A bridge is a multi-unit restoration that involves placing a dental crown over teeth on either side of a space (where a tooth used to be), then suspending another crown or crowns between them to replace the missing teeth. Bridge are sometimes also known as fixed partials.
Why would I need a bridge?
There are a number of reasons:
* Bridges are often used to replace missing teeth when the supporting teeth (abutments) already need crowns for their own strength.
* Bridges can be used when the missing tooth cannot be replaced by an implant for some reason.
* Bridges can be more esthetic than implants in certain circumstances.
What are bridges made of?
Bridges are made of a variety of materials, each choice has advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the options available at present:
- Porcelain bonded to precious metal: This is what the majority of bridges are made from. A precious metal base is made and porcelain is then applied in layers over it.
- Porcelain: These bridges are not as strong as porcelain bonded to metal bridges but they can look very natural and are most often used for replacing front teeth. These bridges cannot be very long.
- Precious metal (gold): These bridges are very strong and hard-wearing, but are usually used at the back of the mouth, where they are not visible.
How are teeth prepared for a bridge?
The dentist will prepare the tooth to the ideal shape for a crown that will act as an abutment for the bridge. This will involve removing most of the outer surface, and leaving a strong inner 'core.' The amount of the tooth removed will be the same as the thickness of the crown to be fitted. Once the tooth is shaped, the dentist will take an impression of the prepared tooth, one of the opposite jaw and possibly another to mark the way you bite together. In our office we are able to do this with a digital scanner. With this new technology there is no need for sticky impression material that is unpleasant and can lead to gagging. The digital impressions will be transmitted to our own laboratory technicians, along with any other information needed to make the crown.
Who makes the bridge?
The impression and shade information will be given to our in-house dental technicians who skilled and very experienced in making bridges. Using the digital information, models of your teeth will be milled using cad-cam technology. The bridge will be constructed by hand on these in order to ensure that the bridge fits perfectly. As stated, all our crowns and bridges are handmade in-house. This will continue as long as computer aided crown fabrication fails to live up to our high standards.
Will the bridge be noticeable?
No. A porcelain/metal bridge, or an all porcelain bridge, will be made to match your other teeth exactly. The shade of the neighboring teeth will be recorded to make sure that the color looks natural and matches the surrounding teeth. A temporary bridge, usually made in plastic, will be fitted at the end of the first appointment to last until the permanent one is ready. Though temporary in nature, these plastic bridges are made to function very effectively during this interval of about one month.
How long does treatment take?
At least two visits are needed, the first for the preparation, impression, shade taking and fitting the temporary bridge, and the second to fit the long-term bridge.
Does it hurt to have teeth prepared for a bridge?
No. A local anesthetic is used and the preparation should feel no different to that of a filling. If the tooth does not have a nerve and a post crown is being prepared, then local anesthetic may not be needed.
How long will a bridge last?
The life of a bridge will depend on how well it is looked after. The bridge itself cannot decay, but decay can start where the edge of the abutment crowns joins the teeth. It is very important to keep this area as clean as your other teeth, or decay may occur which could endanger the bridge. Properly cared for bridges will last for many years -- your dentist will be able to advise you how long.
How are bridges fixed to teeth?
Once the fit and appearance of the bridge has been checked -- and approved by you -- it will be cemented in place with special dental cement. The cement also forms a seal to help hold it firmly in place.
Will the bridge feel different?
No. It should feel fine and natural to you. The bridge may need some adjustment if it feels like it crowds the surrounding teeth. If it is at all uncomfortable, you should ask your dentist to check and adjust it.
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