Have you lost a tooth and are looking for a replacement that lets you bite and chew normally? A dental bridge is a fully fixed replacement tooth–it’s not removable. It not only functions like a normal tooth, it looks like one, too. It’s the next best thing to a dental implant, and in many situations, dental bridges are the best tooth replacement, especially if you don’t want or can’t have implant surgery.
A dental bridge is one way we restore our patients’ smiles. To learn if it’s the right procedure for you, please contact restorative dentist Dr. Shahin Safarian for an appointment at his office in San Diego.
What Is a Dental Bridge?
A dental bridge is a tooth replacement that is supported by your natural teeth. Usually, it’s a replacement tooth attached to two dental crowns placed over adjacent teeth. However, a dental bridge could technically be any number of replacement teeth supported by any number of crowns. In the past, we sometimes even placed dental bridges that were supported on only one side–called cantilever bridges. We’ll talk later about why this isn’t a good idea and has largely gone out of use since the invention of dental implants.
To place a dental bridge, we will prepare your supporting teeth by removing some tooth enamel to make room for the dental crowns. Then we’ll take an impression of your teeth, which we send to the lab to make your final bridge.
We’ll fit you with a temporary bridge, which looks attractive but isn’t as strong as your final bridge. When your final bridge is ready, we will call you back to our office for fitting.
A Maryland Bridge is a special type of bridge that isn’t supported by dental crowns. Instead, the replacement tooth has “wings” that are bonded to the back of your natural teeth to hold it in place.
This type of bridge isn’t very strong, so it’s mostly used as a temporary solution, such as providing a replacement tooth while a dental implant heals.
Benefits of Dental Bridges
Dental bridges are a good tooth replacement solution, because they:
- Look natural
- Stay fixed in place
- Function like natural teeth
- Are long-lasting
- Don’t require surgery
Modern dental bridges are made as single-piece restorations. There are no visible wires or anything to give away the bridge.
Because the dental bridge is bonded to your natural teeth, it stays in place–it won’t come out accidentally and you don’t have to take it out. This lets them function like natural teeth–you can bite and chew normally, and won’t have to give up your favorite foods.
Dental bridges are long-lasting: they usually last 10-15 years if properly placed and well cared for.
Some people can’t or don’t want to get implant surgery. For these people, dental bridges are a great choice–they don’t require surgery, just normal dental treatment.
Limitations of Dental Bridges
However, dental bridges do have limitations that make them less desirable in some situations. Dental bridges:
- Require modifying healthy teeth
- Can only be used in limited situations
- Can put teeth at risk
- Don’t stimulate gums or jawbone
With dental bridges, we have to modify your natural teeth, often by removing enamel from healthy teeth. We’d rather not do this if we can avoid it–tooth enamel is irreplaceable.
Because a dental bridge always increases the force on your supporting teeth, we can only use them in situations where they won’t increase the force too much. And even if we limit the force increase, they can still put your supporting teeth at risk. That’s why we don’t use cantilever bridges anymore: the risk to your supporting tooth is too high–a dental implant is just a better option in that situation.
Finally, a dental bridge doesn’t stimulate the jawbone or gums where the tooth was lost. This means your body will naturally remove the supporting bone, which can cause the gums to collapse, too. Sometimes this creates a space under the dental bridge, which is unattractive.