If you are missing a tooth or some teeth between other healthy or restorable teeth that have not yet severely encroached upon the empty space between them you may be a good candidate for a dental bridge.
Why you should get a dental bridge
When a tooth or teeth are lost the teeth around it tip and move toward the space formerly occupied by the missing tooth or teeth. This shifting of the teeth alters the direction of force applied to the remaining teeth, their roots and the jaws during chewing. These misdirected forces accelerate tooth movement and allow the teeth that used to chew with the missing tooth or teeth to move up or down out of their sockets into the empty space. Dental bridges can correct an altered bite, improve your chewing ability and speech and prevent the collapse of your facial features that can cause premature wrinkles and age lines.
Types of dental bridges
There are basically four types of dental bridges:
- Traditional dental bridges where the teeth on each side of the empty space are prepared for dental crowns and a dental bridge is made including a tooth between them (a pontic) to “bridge” the gap.
- A resin bonded “Maryland” dental bridge, where the pontic tooth is fused to metal bands that can be bonded to the back surface of the teeth on each side of the empty space.
- A cantilever dental bridge where there are teeth on only one side of the empty space.
- An implant supported dental bridge where there are no adjacent teeth to act as anchors for the dental bridge.
The traditional dental bridge is the strongest and is typically used to replace back teeth where the forces of chewing and grinding are strongest. The resin bonded “Maryland” dental bridge is the most conservative and reduces the amount of tooth preparation. It is also the weakest and is used primarily to replace front teeth for that reason. The Cantilever dental bridge typically replaces one tooth where more strength than a “Maryland” dental bridge can give is required. The implant supported dental bridge is the most versatile and offers strength rivaling the traditional bridge. It is also more expensive to place and restore. Implant supported dental bridges also require good bone quality and density to be used.
Materials for dental bridges
There are three basic types of materials for dental bridges: (1) All porcelain dental bridges (2) Porcelain fused to metal (e.g. gold) dental bridges and (3) all metal dental bridges. The all porcelain dental bridges and porcelain fused to metal (PFM) dental bridges are tooth colored bridges. PFM dental bridges are usually used to restore back teeth where the forces of chewing and grinding are strongest. All porcelain dental bridges are the most aesthetic and are used almost exclusively for front teeth where the need for strength is not as critical. Gold dental bridges are the most durable and offer the most precise fit. While it is possible to chip porcelain dental bridges, gold dental bridges provide no such possibility. Where a tooth-colored dental bridge is not a priority, the gold dental bridge is an excellent choice.
Design and placement of dental bridges
The design and placement of dental bridges for teeth is typically accomplished within 2-3 weeks using a steps similar to those used to design and place dental crowns.
First the abutment (teeth on either side of the empty space) are prepared for dental crowns. Based on her many years of experience Dr. Albright will carefully remove any damaged and weakened areas of your abutment teeth then strengthen them with build up materials when necessary. She will then meticulously reshape your natural dental crowns to receive your new dental bridge then take an impression of the prepared teeth. Once you approve of the color selected for your new dental bridge, Dr. Albright will design your dental bridge and send it to our East Bay dental bridge professional laboratory for fabrication. Fabrication of a dental bridge typically takes 2-3 weeks. However, because our office and dental laboratory are local (East Bay – Oakland / Berkeley border) our dental bridges are sometimes finished earlier. In the meantime Dr. Albright will protect your teeth with a temporary tooth colored acrylic dental bridge.
Secondly, once your dental bridge is finished and before your appointment for placement, Dr. Albright will perform her first quality assurance check. Dr. Albright will evaluate your new dental bridge to ensure that it meets her custom design specifications. She will also evaluate the craftsmanship with which your dental bridge was made. If any discrepancies are discovered they will be corrected. Once the new dental bridge passes this first quality assurance check your new dental bridge will await you and your placement appointment.
Finally, during your placement appointment, Dr. Albright will perform her second quality assurance check. She will evaluate the accuracy of fit, functional compatibility and color match of your new dental bridge with your surrounding teeth. Adjustments, if necessary, will be made and your new dental bridge will be polished. Once this has been completed to Dr. Albrights’ professional satisfaction you will evaluate the fit, feel and appearance of your new dental bridge. If you want changes made we will make them. Once you approve of your new dental bridge Dr. Albright will then cement your new dental bridge onto your natural teeth.
Care for dental bridges
Dental bridges require even more regular and consistent home and professional dental care than your natural teeth do to prevent decay at the tooth-dental bridge junction. This is because the area beneath the dental bridge must be cleaned. We will instruct you on proper care of your bridge to help ensure the health of the teeth supporting your new dental bridge. The evaluation of metal and tooth-colored dental bridges in our East Bay (Oakland / Berkeley border) office is a regular part of your periodic check-ups.