What Are the Different Types of Dental Bridges in Austin, Texas?

If you’re missing teeth – even if it’s just a single tooth – you should find a suitable replacement as soon as you can. That’s because if you wait and choose to live with one or more missing teeth for a period of time, your other teeth will begin to shift inside your mouth to fill in the space left behind by the missing teeth. That can lead to other problems, such as throwing your bite off and uneven wear of your other teeth. In extreme cases, living with missing teeth can even cause jaw problems and eventually change the shape of your face. Fortunately, there are some excellent ways to replace missing teeth. One of the most popular is the dental bridge. In this article, we explore the different types of dental bridges available in the Austin, Texas area.

Dental Bridges vs. Partial Dentures

Types-of-Dental-Bridges
Bridges and partial dentures are both appliances that are intended to replace missing teeth. The primary difference between the two is that a bridge is a fixed appliance (not removable by the patient), as opposed to a partial denture, which is removable by the patient. A bridge usually consists of artificial teeth set into a metal frame, and a partial denture typically consists of artificial teeth mounted onto a gum-colored base that fits into the patient’s mouth and is removed each night before going to bed. Although partial dentures are often a good way to replace missing teeth, this article focuses on the other alternative: dental bridges.

Traditional Dental Bridges

A traditional dental bridge consists of one or more crowns mounted onto a metal frame and secured in the patient’s mouth with one bracket on each end that attaches to existing natural teeth. That is one requirement of traditional bridges – that the patient have either natural teeth on each side of the gap. This type of bridge is popular for several reasons: the small, lightweight design is usually quite comfortable for the wearer; the appliance is very durable, typically lasting for many years; and the crowns provide an excellent chewing surface, allowing the wearer to enjoy whatever foods he or she would like. The disadvantage in traditional bridges is that the existing natural teeth to which the bridge is attached (also referred to as the “abutment teeth”) will require crowns in order to strengthen the teeth and provide an adequate base for the bridge. That means that those teeth will need to have a certain amount of enamel removed from them in order to make room for crowns, and because enamel never grows back once it’s removed, those abutment teeth will always require crowns from that point forward.

Maryland Bridges

Similar to a traditional dental bridge, a Maryland bridge consists of a crown (or prosthetic tooth) mounted into a frame and attached to existing teeth on either side of the gap inside the patient’s mouth. The primary difference is the mounting bracket on each end of the appliance. The Maryland bridge has thinner “wings” on each end that are securely bonded to the back of the abutment teeth, which eliminates the need for removal of the enamel on those teeth. A Maryland bridge may also be referred to as a “resin bonded bridge,” and is generally considered to be a more conservative appliance for replacing missing teeth.

The disadvantage of the Maryland bridge is that the metal attachments have a tendency to become discolored over time, and that in turn can cause the abutment teeth to darken. The bonding material can also weaken eventually, so the durability of this type of bridge is less than that of a traditional dental bridge.

Cantilever Bridges

For patients with only one abutment tooth available, a cantilever bridge can be an excellent choice for replacing one or more missing teeth. This type of appliance is supported at one end, as opposed to the traditional bridge and the Maryland bridge, both of which need to be supported at either end. When the patient needs to have a single tooth replaced, for example, the cantilever bridge would be created using two crowns, with the abutment crowns located next to each other and the artificial tooth (the one replacing the missing natural tooth) at one end of the appliance. These bridges may not be able to handle the same amount of biting force of other bridges, but can be a good choice for patients in some situations.

Composite Bridges

For patients needing to replace one or two teeth, composite bridges offer an economical alternative to other types of bridges. These appliances are made of composite bonding material that is placed directly into the gap left behind by the missing tooth inside the patient’s mouth. Although the procedure can be done in a single trip to the dentist’s office, it does require a certain amount of time for the dentist to create the bridge, not to mention a great deal of expertise. The procedure involves the dentist molding the bonding material into a perfectly shaped replacement tooth, then adding a wire reinforcement known as a Ribbond to provide additional strength. A composite bridge is not nearly as durable as other types of bridges, and is usually considered as a temporary way to replace missing teeth until another more permanent solution is possible.

Implant-Supported Bridges

An implant-supported bridge is just like a traditional bridge with one very important difference: rather than being supported on each end by existing teeth covered by crowns, an implant-supported bridge attaches on each end to tiny titanium posts that are embedded in the jaw (also referred to as “implants”). Generally speaking, implant-supported bridges are considered to be extremely comfortable and durable, but the procedure is much more complex than other types of bridges. The first step of the procedure involves the patient undergoing implant surgery, then allowing those implants to bond with the bone tissue – a process that normally takes several months. Although implant-supported bridges are often the preferred way to replace missing teeth, the patient must have an adequate amount of bone tissue present to accommodate the implants.

Replacing missing teeth is vital in order to maintain good oral health. Fortunately, there are several types of dental bridges available to patients in and around the Austin, Texas area. To find out more about the various bridges available, and to determine which choice is right for you, contact your Austin, Texas dentist today and schedule an appointment.

We will be out of the office to spend time with our loved ones for the holiday during the week of December 21 - December 25. We will be back in the office to help our wonderful patients on Monday, December 28.

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