Choosing to live without teeth – whether it’s one tooth or several – can have a devastating impact on your oral health, and before you decide to do that, you should know the consequences. After a period of time, the other teeth in your mouth will shift in an effort to fill in the gap left behind by your missing teeth. That can throw your bite off, making it difficult to chew food, causing jaw soreness, and eventually resulting in uneven wear on your remaining teeth. So it’s important to replace missing teeth as soon as you can. Fortunately, modern dental technology provides a variety of ways to do just that. One of the most popular methods for replacing missing teeth is with a dental bridge. If you’re trying to decide whether this is the right choice for you, we’ve compiled the following information about what is involved in the dental bridge procedure, as well as some other facts about the types of dental bridges available to Austin, Texas area dental patients.
Types of Bridges
The specific steps involved in getting a new dental bridge will vary somewhat depending on what type of bridge you’ll be getting. What follows are brief descriptions of each type of bridge available.
- Traditional bridge – This appliance consists of one or more artificial teeth mounted in a metal frame with brackets on each end that attach to adjoining (“abutment”) teeth. The abutment teeth will require crowns, and that means that a portion of the enamel from those teeth will need to be removed beforehand.
- Maryland bridge – This bridge is constructed in the same way as a traditional bridge, except that each end of the device has “wings” that are bonded to the back of abutment teeth. This means that the adjoining teeth won’t require crowns.
- Cantilever bridge – A cantilever bridge is used for patients who are missing a tooth and have only one abutment tooth available to anchor the bridge. If the patient has a single tooth missing, for example, a cantilever bridge would consist of one replacement tooth with an abutment crown on one end that would be positioned next to the adjoining natural tooth.
- Composite bridge – Usually considered to be a temporary solution, a composite bridge consists of a composite resin material that is molded into the shape of the missing tooth and placed in the gap where the tooth once was, then held in place by a wire.
• Implant-supported bridge – This device is constructed just like a traditional bridge, except that it is anchored on each side by dental implants. This requires the patient to undergo implant surgery before being fitted for the bridge.
Dental Bridge Procedure
Although the specific steps in your dental bridge procedure will vary depending on what type of bridge you’ll receive, what follows are the typical steps involved for most dental patients.
- Consultation – No matter what type of bridge you’ll be fitted with, the first step in the process will always involve a consultation with your dentist. He or she will begin by giving you a thorough oral exam to help to determine what type of bridge would work best for you.
- Dental impression and tooth preparation – The next step of the process involves your dentist making either a 3D image or a physical impression of your teeth. This impression will then be sent out to a dental lab, where your bridge will be created. Patients receiving a traditional bridge will also need to have their abutment teeth prepared for crowns, which typically takes place during this same visit. That involves removing some portion of the enamel layer and reshaping those adjoining teeth. Patients receiving any type of bridge other than traditional will not have to go through this process since the abutment teeth will not require crowns.
- Bridge placement – Once your bridge is ready (typically about two weeks after the lab receives the impression), you’ll return to the dentist’s office to have the bridge placed. If you’ll be receiving a traditional crown, your dentist will also fit your abutment teeth with crowns during this visit. The crowns will be bonded to the abutment teeth prior to placement of the bridge.
Remember that these steps are applicable for patients receiving a traditional bridge. If you’ll be getting a Maryland bridge, the device will be bonded onto the back of the abutment teeth and no crowns will be needed, which means you won’t have to go through the crown preparation and placement process. If you’ll be receiving an implant-supported bridge, you’ll need to undergo the surgical implant procedure before being fitting for the bridge. This involves inserting tiny metal rods into your jawbone on either side of where the bridge will be placed, then waiting for those rods to fuse to the bone tissue – a process that typically takes a few months. Once the fusing is complete, crowns are affixed to the top of the implants, providing an extremely strong and solid base for the bridge. If you’ll be receiving a composite bridge, the process is much simpler and will usually only involve a single trip to the dentist’s office. During that visit, the dentist will create a perfectly shaped false tooth from a composite resin material, place that tooth where the missing tooth once was, and wire it in place. Although getting a composite bridge is definitely a simpler process, this type of bridge is normally considered to be only a temporary solution to replace missing teeth.
Modern dental technology provides patients with a variety of options for replacing teeth, and it’s easy to see why dental bridges are such a popular method for achieving that goal. Most bridges, if they’re properly cared for, will last 10 to 15 years or even longer. And most patients report that bridges are comfortable to wear and easy to care for. To find out more about the dental bridge procedure, and to determine what type of bridge would be the best choice for you, contact your Austin, Texas dentist today and schedule an appointment.