Dental BridgesA dental bridge can enhance your smile by replacing lost teeth to restore the natural shape and appearance of your face.

On average, people aged 20 to 64 in the U.S. have at least three missing or decayed teeth, according to the American Dental Association1 (ADA). The American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons2 (AAOMS) says nearly 70 percent of those aged 35 to 44 have lost at least one tooth.

While it may be possible to fill cavities, once teeth are lost it can significantly alter your facial features. Whether you’ve lost teeth in an accident or through decay or gum disease, bridges will improve your ability to eat and speak as well as enhance your appearance. Just one missing tooth can create a noticeable void in your smile. A bridge can fill this gap with a synthetic, natural-looking tooth.

Are There Different Types of Dental Bridges?

A bridge3 can restore your smile and self-image and get your oral health back on track. Bridges are so called because they literally bridge the gap caused by a missing tooth or teeth. There are several types of dental bridges to enhance your smile. The most popular are traditional bridges and implant-supported bridges.

Traditional bridges comprise one or more artificial teeth (pontics) held in place by dental crowns (abutments) on either side. Traditional bridges – usually made from either ceramics or porcelain fused to metal – are cemented onto the teeth next to the gap and are strong enough to replace molars as well as other teeth. Because a traditional bridge is anchored to surrounding teeth, those teeth must be structurally sound.

Fitting a traditional bridge generally takes a few dental appointments, and the process entails:

  • Local anesthetic followed by reshaping teeth on either side of the gap to make room for abutment crowns.
  • Taking impressions to produce the crowns and artificial tooth or teeth that will be manufactured in a dental lab.
  • Fitting a temporary bridge to protect your mouth while the permanent bridge is being made.
  • Removal of the provisional bridge and fitting of your new bridge.
  • Adjusting your permanent bridge if necessary, to get a good fit.

Implant-supported bridges are anchored by dental implants, the titanium in which fuses with your jaw bone. The implant, which is surgically inserted, replaces the entire missing tooth – from crown to root – and becomes an integral part of your body. Implant-supported bridges will prevent future bone loss and prevent loosening of adjacent teeth.

Benefits of a Traditional Dental Bridge

  • Recommended in cases of jaw bone loss.
  • Non-surgical procedure.
  • Less planning and preparation time than implants.
  • Less expensive than implants.

Advantages of Implant-Supported Bridges

  • Better stability.
  • Less prone to cavities and gum issues.
  • A solution that can last a lifetime.
  • Adjacent teeth are not affected.

Other types of bridges include cantilever bridges – used when teeth are missing on one side of the gap – and resin-bonded bridges, which consist of porcelain, metal bonded to porcelain, or plastic gums and teeth supported by a porcelain or metal frame.

Removable bridges, which can be used to replace one or more missing teeth in an arch, typically comprise replacement teeth attached to a gum-colored plastic base. They are attached to natural teeth with clasps.

How Missing Teeth Spoil Your Smile

Common causes of losing teeth are:

  • Gum Disease.
  • Tooth Decay.
  • Accidents such as sports mishaps.
  • Aging.

Whatever the reason for missing teeth, one thing is for sure: the problem can play havoc with your smile.

Besides allowing you to eat and speak properly, your teeth play an important role in maintaining your facial structure. When teeth are missing, your face can with time develop a shrunken appearance as the jaw bone gradually loses volume.

If you’ve lost front teeth, you may find your facial appearance shifting or sagging. This is because these teeth support facial muscles.

You might think the loss of a less visible back tooth isn’t so detrimental to your appearance. However, the absence of just a single molar can distort your smile by bending your mouth out of shape and making you appear older. Your back teeth are responsible for aligning your jaw and maintaining the shape of your jaw line.

How Bridges Can Prevent Health Problems

Apart from spoiling your smile, missing teeth can be a problem for your oral health and general wellbeing

Gaps left by tooth loss can result in shifting of remaining teeth. Tooth loss can also compromise your ability to maintain a nutritious diet. Instead of crunchy fruits and vegetables, you may be limited to soft foods.

Bridges not only restore the appearance of your smile and your oral functionality but can also boost your self-esteem by allowing you to carry on with everyday activities like eating, talking, smiling and laughing, with full confidence.

Looking After Your Bridge

Bridges can last a long time with proper care. They are far stronger than other cosmetic dental treatments like tooth bonding and veneers.

Nevertheless, part of your natural tooth remains beneath a traditional bridge, so it needs to be protected from attack by bacterial plaque. It’s also important to keep remaining teeth healthy and strong to provide a solid base for your bridge.

You can help to keep your bridge in good condition by:

  • A sound routine of oral hygiene – brushing twice a day and flossing daily.
  • Seeing your dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings.
  • Maintaining a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and fiber.

Which Type of Bridge Is Right for Me?

Whether you have lost a single tooth or several teeth, a dentist experienced in fitting bridges can help you to decide which type of bridge is best to enhance your smile.

For instance, a traditional bridge may be a good option when a tooth or teeth have been missing for some time, causing gum and bone recession.

On the other hand, an implant-supported bridge avoids the damage to surrounding teeth associated with traditional bridges.