Dental bridges transform lives. In modern dentistry, they stand alongside crowns and implants as a powerful method to improve dental health. Thousands of dental bridge procedures occur every year because they work. But many people, especially those who are less experienced with dentistry, don’t fully understand what a dental bridge is. We explain this process for cracked, damaged or missing teeth: situations that should be corrected as quickly and painlessly as possible! At The Happy Tooth dental offices in Chapel Hill, NC, we are experts in dental bridges for patients of all kinds and teeth in all conditions.
How Do Dental Bridges Work?
Dental bridges are front line treatment to replace missing teeth, forming a “bridge” between existing healthy teeth to a more natural look, feel and function. Tooth loss doesn’t just affect cosmetics. It can also lead to difficulty chewing and even problems speaking. A bridge capitalizes on the teeth on either side, creating stability where the missing tooth once was. Sometimes, bridges use healthy teeth on either side. In other cases, a more complex bridge is necessary that anchors to one remaining healthy tooth.
Understanding Damaged Teeth
Teeth are one of those assets most of us take fully for granted. Until one (or more) becomes unusable we don’t give much thought to how important they are. When a tooth is damaged or decays, removal may be the only decision. Options for replacing that tooth include an implant (which also includes a crown) or a dental bridge. The bridge covers the gap where that damaged or diseased tooth once was. Bridges are fashioned to look natural: the goal is for what was once a gap to take on the appearance of a seamless row of teeth and a beautiful smile. With a successful bridge, teeth look normal and function normally.
Types of Dental Bridges
Bridges have been around long enough that there are now subtypes. Traditional, cantilever, and Maryland-bonded bridges each play their role in restoring teeth back to normal and are the most common types.
A traditional bridge creates a crown for the existing tooth on either side of the gap. That crown becomes the foundation (or buttress) for the bridge to become securely anchored. So when thinking of dental bridges, it’s important to know that dental crowns are part of the package. A crown is the top or visible part of the tooth.
Dentists choose a cantilever bridge when only one side of the gap has a healthy tooth. This style is essentially a longer bridge anchored to only one side (the healthy tooth) and is generally not recommended for teeth in the back of the mouth that do most of the chewing. For obvious reasons, a bridge anchored on one side (versus two) is less stable and durable.
Maryland-bonded bridges use porcelain teeth and metal supports. Each side of the bridge has a constructed metal wing that bonds to the existing teeth.
How Dental Bridges Have Evolved
Bridges were among the first innovations in dental reconstruction. Before bridges, patients would settle for a missing tooth and simply endure the discomfort and inconvenience (and often pain) of living with fewer teeth. But the stability of each tooth is important, so as soon as dental bridges became commonplace in the US, dentists began perfecting techniques. The first dental bridges were used 4,000 years ago in China (bamboo) and 1,500 years ago in Egypt (gold and silver wire).
While the concept has been in the US since Europeans first set foot on these shores, new materials have been game-changers. In the modern age, an assortment of materials are available to fashion “false teeth” and replace broken or missing teeth. We now have porcelain and resin as well as even more sophisticated bonding agents. As a result, although the concept of bridges is as old as the first civilizations, they are far more effective and comfortable in the 21st century.
What Treatment Is Like
It takes two visits to complete a dental bridge. At the first treatment, we will prep the natural teeth that will form the “abutments” of the bridge to ensure a well-placed final product. The abutments are shaped to optimize both ends of the bridge so they fit well. Patients also need an impression (or mold) of their teeth to construct a perfect fit for the new dental bridge. A natural-looking restoration is used temporarily while the impression is being completed after the initial visit.
The follow-up treatment only requires one more trip to the dentist. We finalize the dental bridge restoration work by fitting the new bridge so it sits as comfortably as possible in the mouth. We need to tweak the new bridge so it feels as natural and comfortable as possible, essentially personalizing it. Once in place correctly, we will cement it so that the bridge becomes a permanent addition and will last for many chewing years.
FAQ About Dental Bridges
1. Why Does It Take Multiple Visits?
Although bridges are a common procedure and many perfections to the technique have occurred over the years, there is no way to install a dental bridge without at least two visits. This has to do mainly with fashioning a good impression of your own teeth to make a seamless look and feel between existing teeth. Multiple visits are standard care for successful preparation, impression, placement, and cementing.
2. Why Not an Implant?
Implants have become an option for tooth replacement and are becoming more widespread. An implant literally replaces a missing tooth with a fashioned tooth that includes crown and root via a multi-step procedure. Getting an implant means a more involved, longer, and more expensive procedure. The upside of implants is they will last longer, but the treatment is more difficult and more expensive.
3. Is This Treatment Expensive?
Bridges are reasonably priced, especially if opting for a payment plan. Most insurance plans cover a majority of the expense of a dental bridge as it is standard procedure to deal with teeth that are missing, cracked, damaged or decayed. To replace a missing tooth or one that must be pulled, a dental bridge is the most affordable option.
4. What Might Keep Me From Getting a Bridge?
In some instances, an orthodontist will recommend delaying treatment or using an alternate treatment, such as a dental implant. If you are unwell, treatment may be delayed as all dental procedures are done when patients are healthy. If an emergency arises, scheduled bridges can be postponed.
5. Aren’t All Orthodontists the Same These Days?
Dental services, like all services, vary in quality. The best bet is to choose a practice where several treatment options are available and where the staff is experienced and well trained. In addition, the level of technology and options for cosmetic improvements can range between practices. Often, a larger practice will also offer more choice, streamlined treatment, and the best support staff.
Enjoy Peace of Mind
The Happy Tooth has a staff of experienced hygienists and orthodontists. Experience makes all the difference when it comes to complex dental services, as with any medical procedure. The more procedures that are performed, the more skilled the doctor and staff usually are. At the same time, improved technology and thriving a business are two hallmarks of excellent services. A modern orthodontist follows strict procedures and protocols for sanitation, cleaning, staff training, and patient communication. The Happy Tooth is a smooth-running, professional, and experienced office that outperforms in these areas.
Better Quality Dental Care
Your teeth are incredibly valuable. Taking care of your teeth is a privilege for us and a powerful preventive measure for overall health and quality of life for you. If you have a missing or damaged tooth, care for it sooner rather than later and without the hassle and stress of wondering how the treatment will come out. For more information, contact The Happy Tooth in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We’re happy to answer any questions that you might have about this or any other treatment.