Bridges offer a permanent, fixed replacement for one or more missing teeth. The teeth either side of the gap are prepared by your dentist and the replacement teeth are bonded to these teeth to ‘bridge the gap’.
Using a bridge helps prevent the remaining teeth from drifting out of position if an empty space is left uncorrected which can cause bite problems and some discomfort.
Basic bridges are made of metal. For a more natural look, the metal can be covered in a thin layer of porcelain which gives a tooth-like appearance to the bridge. Alternatively, the bridge can be hand-made by a skilled dental technician, wholly from porcelain, with the end result being virtually indistinguishable from the real thing.
Bridges are usually used where there are fewer teeth to replace, or when the missing teeth are only on one side of the mouth. An impression is taken of the mouth, using a soft mouldable material. This impression is used to build exact plaster models of the upper and lower teeth and gums, which demonstrates how the teeth bite together.
Your teeth that will support the bridge are then prepared to take the fixings and to ensure that the bridge is not too bulky. A second impression is then taken of the teeth and any gaps. This is used to build the bridge to the exact size, shape and colour required.
Whilst the bridge is being made, a temporary plastic bridge or crown may be fitted. When the bridge is ready, it will be fitted and small adjustments made to ensure a comfortable bite is maintained, before it is fixed in place.
Following the fitting, additional and regular oral hygiene care is required. If it is kept clean and providing there is no accidental damage, a bridge can last for many years. Your dentist or dental hygienist will recommend an appropriate home care regime.
Bridges fall within an area of dentistry known as Prosthodontics.
What is a bridge?
A bridge is used to replace one or several missing teeth. It is usually constructed by fitting crowns (caps) to the teeth on either side of the gap, thereby bridging it.
What are bridges for?
A bridge not only replaces missing teeth, it also supports the adjacent teeth. If a gap is left, it can be unsightly and the teeth on either side can tip into it over time, causing problems with the bite and even gum disease. Whilst dentures can be used to replace missing teeth, bridges are usually a much better option since dentures can hasten the loss of the remaining natural teeth and you have to remove them at night.
When do I need a bridge?
A bridge may be recommended if:
- You have lost one or more teeth at the front or back of the mouth and there are adjacent teeth to support a bridge
- You are having an implant and a bridge is needed between the implant and a tooth for stability.
Does a bridge look natural?
Yes; once a bridge is fitted it is difficult to distinguish it from natural teeth and it will usually improve your smile. The dentist will record the colour and translucency of the teeth next to the gap and the colour of the bridge is made to match. Modern porcelains can be incredibly beautiful, life-like and long-lasting.
How long does a bridge last?
A bridge can last many years provided it is properly looked after. Good dental hygiene is essential to prolong its life. You should brush and floss the bridge as normal, although you may need to use a special brush or floss to clean under it. The dentist or hygienist will show you the most effective home care techniques. Regular check-ups with the dentist and hygienist are essential to maintain the health of your teeth and gums.
What about implants?
More and more people are having implants. This is because implants avoid the necessity to crown healthy teeth, in a situation where your adjacent teeth are in good condition an implant may be the best option. Your dentist will advise you whether a bridge or implant is the treatment of choice.