Are you missing teeth? When it comes to teeth replacement options, dental bridges are one of the most common and time-tested solutions available. Here, we have compiled comprehensive information that will help you better understand dental bridges, including candidacy, benefits, and the treatment process. Dr. Todd B. Barsky, a board-certified prosthodontist, places bridges in his Miami, FL practice. Contact our office to learn more about this popular teeth replacement option.
About Dental Bridges
Dental bridges acquired their name because they literally “bridge the gap” between teeth. This restoration typically consists of two dental crowns on either side with artificial teeth – or pontics – between them. The crowns serve as anchors to hold the bridge in place, while the pontics fill the space left behind by the missing teeth.
Dental Bridge Materials
Through the years, dental bridges have been crafted from a wide array of dental materials, including gold, silver, and amalgam. Today, however, most bridges are fabricated with aesthetics in mind. Most bridges placed in our practice are made from porcelain or zirconia, both of which blend in with the surrounding teeth for a beautiful result. In cases where extra strength is required, bridges may be porcelain-fused-to-metal. These restorations have a metal base and a porcelain overlay.
Who is a Candidate for a Dental Bridge?
Dental bridges are used to replace a row of missing teeth. Therefore, if you have sporadically missing teeth, you will be better suited for a partial or dental implants. Generally, a bridge is strong enough to successfully replace one to three teeth. If you are missing more than that, Dr. Barsky can discuss alternative options with you, such as dental implants, that will be more predictable and longer-lasting.
Depending on the type of bridge you choose, the natural adjacent teeth may serve as anchors for your restoration. Therefore, you must be free from gum disease and tooth decay. Because bridges are non-invasive, they may be an optimal solution for patients who cannot undergo dental implant surgery.
Types of Dental Bridges
There are a few different types of dental bridges, each one designed for a specific purpose. These include:
- Traditional Dental Bridge: A traditional bridge is supported by the adjacent teeth on either side of the gap. In order for the bridge to be placed, these teeth must be slightly reduced so they can serve as anchors – or abutments – for your restoration. This means minimal portions of the tooth structure will be removed. On average, a traditional dental bridge can last upwards of 15 years.
- Implant-Supported Bridge: Similar in structure to a traditional bridge, an implant-supported bridge rests on dental implants rather than natural teeth. Therefore, the removal of natural tooth structure is not necessary. Although dental implants add to the total cost of treatment, implant-supported bridges are more resilient than their traditional counterparts, and often last a lifetime. Because dental implants stimulate the nerves in the jaw just as natural teeth roots do, implant-supported bridges actually preserve the natural jawbone structure and prevent bone loss over time.
- Maryland Bridge: This type of bridge was created to minimize the removal of natural tooth structure. Instead of dental crowns, a Maryland bridge has wings on either side of the restoration that are bonded to the back of the adjacent teeth. Therefore, the teeth do not have to be reduced, and natural structure can be retained.
- Cantilever Bridge: This type of restoration consists of a single dental crown rather than two. This crown will support the entire restoration, which may include one or two artificial teeth. Cantilever bridges are typically placed in the front of the mouth. This is because chewing force is strongest in the molar areas, so this type of bridge would be subject to damage if placed in the back of the mouth.
Your Initial Consultation
During your initial consultation with Dr. Barsky, he will perform a thorough oral assessment. In addition to checking for cavities and gum disease, he will take x-rays and scans to evaluate the health of your underlying jawbone. He will also discuss your medical history with you in detail and listen to your personal concerns and aesthetic goals. After gathering all necessary information, Dr. Barsky will design a fully personalized treatment plan, and discuss all your options with you.
Traditional Dental Bridges: The Treatment Process
The traditional dental bridge treatment process can typically be completed in two office visits.
Patients undergoing Dental Bridge procedure can expect these steps:
- Preparing the Teeth: Before fabricating your restoration, your teeth will need to be prepared. This will involve removing small amounts of tooth structure to make room for the bridge. Any tooth decay or damaged portions will be removed at this time, as well.
- Impressions: After the teeth are prepared, we will take impressions of your mouth. These will be sent to our trusted dental lab. While you are waiting for your restoration to be completed, a temporary bridge can be placed.
- Fabricating the Bridge: At the dental lab, a skilled ceramist will begin crafting your bridge, a process that typically takes about one or two weeks.
- Placement: Once the bridge arrives from the lab, we will schedule you for a visit to try in the restoration. Dr. Barsky will bond the bridge into place with a strong dental cement.
- Adjustments: After the bridge is bonded, Dr. Barsky will check pressure points on your bite, and make any necessary final adjustments.
Implant-Supported Bridges: The Treatment Process
The actual placement of an implant-supported bridge is similar to the process listed above. However, before reaching that step, you will have your dental implants surgically placed into the jawbone. This is performed during an oral surgery procedure. After placement, implants typically need about two to six months of healing. During this time, a process known as osseointegration occurs, in which the jawbone fuses to the implants. Osseointegration ensures the bridge will have a strong and healthy foundation.
Once the implants have healed, there are two more steps required:
- Abutments: To serve as the anchors for your bridge, abutments (posts) will be placed once the implants have osseointegrated. These components will be connected to the implants, and will extend beyond the gum line. Essentially, this step is performed in lieu of the “preparing the teeth” phase mentioned above.
- Placement of Restoration: Once the abutments are placed, your custom dental bridge can be attached to them, using either dental cement or screw retention.
Although the process for an implant-supported bridge takes longer and costs more, most patients find the investment is worth it. Because an implant-supported bridge does not compromise the health of the jawbone or the adjacent teeth, it is an excellent long-term option.
Schedule a Consultation Today
If you have consecutively missing teeth, and are exploring your replacement options, a dental bridge could be the solution for you. To find out what type of dental bridge is right for your situation, schedule a visit with Dr. Barsky. You can reach our office by calling (786) 542-1071 or by contacting us online.