Replacing missing teeth is vital to your good oral health. Fortunately, whether you’re missing a single tooth or several teeth, there is a reliable solution to the problem: a dental bridge. These appliances have been a popular method for replacing missing teeth for decades and with good reason. Most dental bridges are comfortable, easy to care for, and durable enough to last for 10 to 15 years and even longer in some cases. If you’re considering one of these appliances to replace your missing teeth, you may be wondering, “Are dental bridges safe?” In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the risks involved in wearing a dental bridge for patients from in and around the Austin, Texas area.
What Is a Dental Bridge?
Although there are several different types available, all dental bridges are very similar in their basic design. A bridge consists of one or more artificial teeth mounted into a metal frame. The frame attaches to adjoining natural teeth on each end (also referred to as “abutment teeth”) or – in the case of implant-supported bridges – dental implants. The method of attachment varies. A traditional bridge includes a bracket on each end that attaches to abutment teeth that have been crowned to ensure that they remain strong enough to support the bridge. A Maryland bridge is designed just like a traditional bridge, except that “wings” on each end of the device are attached to the abutment teeth using a bonding material. If there are no adjoining teeth, or if the existing teeth are compromised in some way, the dentist and patient may choose to insert implants into the jawbone of the patient and use those implants to support the bridge. In the case of a cantilever bridge, only one abutment tooth is necessary to support the device, which is designed using two crowns, one of which acts as an abutment tooth and is placed next to the single existing natural tooth with the replacement tooth at the far end of the device.
The Risks Associated with Dental Bridges
We should start by saying that dental bridges are a “tried and true” method of replacing missing teeth. As long as you choose a dentist who has an adequate amount of training and experience in fitting patients with dental bridges, you shouldn’t experience any type of problems whatsoever. Still, there are some risks involved in wearing these appliances, even though they should be considered to be minimal. Here, then, are some of the problems that might occur as a result of wearing a dental bridge.
- You might be at a higher risk of developing gum disease after being fitted with a dental bridge. This can happen as a result of poor oral hygiene practices and/or not visiting your dentist on a regular basis for professional cleanings and oral exams. Gum disease that is left untreated can lead to loose teeth or even to tooth loss – and that could include the abutment teeth that hold your crown in place. This is why it’s so important for bridge wearers to maintain an excellent daily hygiene routine that includes brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day. To further guard against gum disease, you can add a water flosser and an anti-microbial mouthwash to your daily routine.
- The abutment teeth may suffer negative consequences. A traditional bridge requires that the abutment teeth on either side of the appliance be covered with crowns in order to form the strongest base possible for the bridge. Before crowns can be placed on these teeth, the dentist needs to remove a certain amount of enamel from each tooth. Once that enamel is removed, it never goes back. That means that those teeth will always require crowns, whether you wear a bridge or not. Although it doesn’t happen often, it is possible for the pulp and/or the nerve of the abutment tooth to be damaged during the process of removing enamel and reshaping it to accept a crown. In these instances, the tooth may “die.” If that happens, it would not be able to support the bridge, and the appliance would collapse.
- If the bridge isn’t properly fitted, you could end up with a gap between your gums and the bridge. This could allow leftover food particles to get trapped between the appliance and the gum tissue, causing inflammation and tooth decay in the abutment teeth. These problems are much less likely to happen if you choose a qualified, experienced dentist to create and fit your new bridge. But a gap between the bridge and the gum tissue can also form as a result of receding gums – which is a natural part of aging for most people. Even well-fitted bridges can be negatively impacted when your gums begin to recede. Once again, the best way to avoid this issue is by visiting your dentist at least twice a year for cleanings and oral exams, which will allow your dentist to keep an eye on your receding gums and whether or not they are affecting your bridge.
- Your bridge may become damaged. Although these appliances are extremely durable, they’re not indestructible. Bridges can chip and crack much the same as a natural tooth might. And the metal frame of the bridge might become warped over time. This type of damage is more likely to occur in patients who clench their teeth during the day or grind their teeth at night. But chewing extremely hard foods can also damage the appliance. That’s why it’s best to stay away from hard nuts and chewing ice, for example, if you wear a bridge. And remember that eventually the appliance will need to be replaced. If you notice damage to your bridge, contact your dentist and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
If you’re considering a bridge as a way to replace one or more missing teeth and are wondering are dental bridges safe, you should know that the answer to that question is yes! Most of the time, bridges are a very safe dental appliance. But you’ll need to practice good oral hygiene each and every day, and make sure to visit your Austin, Texas dentist at least twice a year for exams and professional cleanings.