When someone is missing teeth, it can result in many issues such as problems with eating and speaking, poor nutritional intake and low self-esteem. Fortunately, there are several dental options available for replacing lost teeth. One of the most common ways of replacing missing teeth is through a dental bridge.
A Dental Bridge: What is it?
A dental bridge is a prosthesis that is reinforced by healthy teeth bordering the gap left by a missing tooth or teeth. The fake tooth is called a “pontic,” which is derived from the French word “pont,” which means bridge. The healthy bordering teeth, referred to as abutments, will provide support on either side, much like a bridge that spans across a gorge.
In order for the abutting teeth to provide the necessary support, they must first be capped or crowned. The process for capping teeth is the same as if the teeth were to need a cap/crown for any other purpose, such as decay or trauma to the teeth. Firstly, the abutting teeth are prepared by removing the enamel in order to create enough space for the caps to fit properly and cover the abutments to maintain an authentic appearance. The caps on the abutting teeth will be attached to a pontic in between them. The pontic is actually just another cap, with the main difference being it has no tooth underneath.
Dental Bridge Building
If a person is missing only one tooth, the bridgework will require three caps. Two of the caps will cover neighboring teeth on either side of the gap from the missing tooth. These two capped teeth will then be used for supporting a third cap which is put between them, filing up the empty space. This piece is known as a three-unit bridge.
If someone is missing more than one tooth, it will require more caps to bridge the gap in between the abutting teeth. Consequently, more abutting teeth might also be required. There are several factors to consider when making the calculation; the number of teeth that are missing, the size and length of the neighboring tooth roots, the amount of bone each neighboring tooth has and where in the mouth the missing teeth are located.
For example, if a person is missing three teeth, four neighboring teeth might be needed. Therefore a seven-tooth bridge would need to be created. Engineering and designing a bridge requires a dentist to have not only an understanding of how to replace missing teeth, but also knowledge of tooth supporting gum and bone tissue.
What Can You Expect?
Getting a bridge done usually requires two dental visits. Upon the first visit, a dentist will prepare the abutting teeth as previously described. Using local anesthesia will prevent a patient from being in any discomfort from the procedure. Three-dimensional models are taken of the teeth in order to construct the caps. The dentist could use a putty-line material to make an impression or digital scanning equipment may be used.
The three-dimensional models of the patient’s teeth that are taken by the dentist will be used by a dental lab to make the caps. The patient will be provided with a temporary crown to wear, before he or she leaves the office. At the next visit, the dentist may be prepared to cement the permanent bridge in place. After a brief period of transition, a patient will become used to feeling the bridge against their tongue, cheeks and lips and soon it will feel like the natural teeth.
Please remember that capped teeth will need the same type of care as regular teeth. A person should brush and floss every day to minimize dental plague build up. When a person has a bridge, it becomes even more essential to maintain regular dental cleanings in order to ensure the bridge lasts for a long time.
Text Copyright © 2015 Louis K. Cheung DDS PS – All rights reserved. Images used under license from Dear Doctor, Inc.