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Dental Bridges Procedure: What is a Permanent Tooth Bridge?

Is the hole in your smile a cause for concern? Consider a dental bridge.

A dental bridge is a type of tooth restoration used to replace missing teeth. In a similar restorative category to dental implants and dentures, dental bridges offer functional and esthetic solutions to the issues caused by tooth loss. A missing tooth or teeth is more than a cosmetic concern. It can result in bite irregularities (malocclusion), speech issues, TMJ disorder (jaw joint condition), and increased risks for gum disease and dental decay.

Dental Bridge Types

A dental bridge is most often a “fixed” restoration, meaning that it cannot be removed in the same manner as certain dentures. There are three distinct types of fixed dental bridges:

  1. Conventional fixed dental bridge
  2. Cantilever dental bridge
  3. Resin-bonded dental bridge

Conventional and cantilever dental bridges are similar in that both require preparation of the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth or teeth. In order to accommodate a conventional/cantilever bridge, this preparation may include permanent reshaping of the teeth intended to best support the restoration. A dental crown attached to an artificial tooth (also called a pontic) is then placed atop the shaped tooth/teeth, with the resulting restoration filling the edentulous region.

Resin-bonded bridges differ from conventional and cantilever options in that they require minimal preparation of surrounding teeth. More often than not, a resin-bonded bridge is used to replace missing front teeth. However, periodontal health may determine whether or not a resin-bonded bridge is an option or not, because the gums must be healthy enough to support the restoration.

The materials used to fabricate most of today's dental bridges include porcelain, metal, gold, zirconia and alumina.

Are You a Candidate for a Dental Bridge? Schedule a Consultation

There are a variety of factors used to determine your candidacy for a dental bridge and the type of materials best suited to your needs. Oral health is one of the more important factors in that you must have a healthy mouth in order to support a bridge. Additional factors include the location of the missing tooth/teeth being replaced, your oral habits (such as if you grind your teeth), your dental insurance policy and more.

During an initial consultation, your dentist will take X-rays and impressions of the edentulous region. Your dentist then will work with you to determine the best course of treatment, and help you determine approximate costs. Following treatment completion, the X-ray and impression process may again be performed to provide a dental bridge before and after reference.

Bridges for Teeth: What's the Procedure?

Before surrounding teeth can be “prepped” for your bridge procedure, a local anesthetic must first be given. Keep in mind that if your surrounding teeth are badly decayed or otherwise lacking in support, your dentist may have to provide treatment before the bridge procedure can be performed.

Once your teeth are prepped for your bridge, you dentist will take an impression using a putty-like material. Getting an accurate impression is essential in order to fabricate a well-fitting restoration. Using this model, a dental lab technician will then fabricate your bridge, ensuring its fit and esthetic appeal. The fabrication process may take some time, during which your dentist will fit you with a temporary dental bridge. This helps to protect your smile from damage in the interim. The procedure is completed at a second visit in which your dentist removes the temporary and places your final bridge restoration.

Dental bridge costs vary, but a quality tooth bridge that is cared for should last between 10 and 20 years.

(Updated on 11/02/12)
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