in Golden, CO
Why Should I Replace Missing Teeth?
Having a missing tooth is anything but rare. In fact, 178 million Americans are missing at least a single tooth. Beyond cosmetics, not replacing a tooth can wreak havoc on your oral health. When a tooth is missing, the teeth on both sides of the missing tooth no longer have pressure on them to stay in place, and they tend to slide over into the space. This can impact your bite and the overall alignment of your smile. Missing teeth also lead to deterioration of the gum tissue and jawbone beneath the empty space.
It can be tempting to avoid the hassle and expense of replacing a missing tooth. Dental bridges, however, are a great way to replace that missing tooth or teeth and get back a great-looking smile.
what is a dental bridge?
Dental bridges — sometimes simply referred to as a tooth bridge — “bridge” the gap created by one or more missing teeth. Anchored by the healthy teeth on both sides of the gap, a bridge features a false tooth or teeth to replace those that are missing. Here at Golden Dental Solutions, our Golden, CO dentists Dr. Nancy Gill and Dr. Dallas Kenson use a variety of bridge options to address your particular needs.
the difference between a dental bridge and a dental implant
Bridges and implants are the two methods for replacing a missing tooth or maybe a couple teeth, but they are totally different.
Dental implants are far and away the preferred solution for replacing a missing tooth or two. An implant is named for its titanium base, the implant, that is screwed down into the hole in the jawbone formerly occupied by the natural tooth root. Once the implant is placed down into the jaw, the gum tissue above it is closed with a stitch and the jawbone is given time to grow around the implant and make it a part of the jaw. This is called osseointegration, and it takes from 3-6 months. Once the jawbone has become one with the implant, we attach a post to the implant base, and the artificial porcelain tooth is attached to the post. Now the dental implant feels and functions exactly like a natural tooth.
Bridges are described above. Instead of using the implant base to anchor a bridge, bridges are anchored by the crowns on the healthy teeth on each side of the missing tooth or teeth. The artificial teeth between the crowns sit atop the gums, unlike an implant whose base is down in the jawbone.
Another difference is lifespan. Most dental implants will last the remainder of the patient’s life. Bridges usually last up to 15 years but will then usually need to be replaced due to wear and tear.
Who is a candidate for dental bridges?
Some people opt to not replace a missing tooth. Cosmetically, this can impact your self-confidence, especially if the missing tooth is visible to others. This can make a person consciously avoid smiling so that their teeth remain covered.
There are several reasons to consider a dental bridge:
- Replace missing teeth
- Prevent the adjacent teeth from moving into the gap
- Restore chewing and/or biting capability
- Maintain the shape of your face
- Distribute the forces in your bite properly across more teeth
- Restore your speaking diction
the disadvantages of a dental bridge
Dental bridges can be placed more quickly and cost less than dental implants, so patients often opt for a bridge. But there are some drawbacks to bridges.
First, a dental bridge has a lifespan, usually around 15 years or so. This depends on what you eat and how you care for your bridge. A problem with bridges for some patients is the abutment teeth. If they are sloppy with their home hygiene and don’t keep their regular schedule of professional cleanings and exams, decay can develop on the natural teeth under the crowns anchoring the bridge.
The bridge can break if your chew or bite down on hard food directly on the bridge. In this case, we would need to have a new bridge fabricated. This is not typical, as it just takes some thought about the foods you’re eating with your bridge.
Bridges can also come off or become loose. This often happens if the person eats some sticky or chewy food, such as caramel or toffee. If the bridge is not broken, we can glue it back down.
What are the Different Types of Dental Bridges?
There are three main types of dental bridges:
Traditional Bridges are the type we’ve described above with crowns on two abutment teeth and a pontic between them. Traditional bridges are the most common. We prefer them to be made from porcelain for durability, but other materials such as ceramic can be used.
Cantilever Bridges are used when there are adjacent teeth on only one side of the missing tooth or teeth. Unlike a true bridge, with anchors on both sides, a cantilever bridge is more like a balcony. We anchor these types of bridges with two crowns on one side.
Maryland Bridges are also known as resin-bonded bridges. Typically used on the front teeth, a Maryland bridge doesn’t use crowns as anchors. Instead, it attaches to bands that are bonded to the back surfaces of the supporting teeth.
What are Dental Bridges Made Out Of?
A dental bridge consists of two dental crowns on the healthy teeth on each side of the gap created by the missing tooth or teeth and a false tooth/teeth in between. The entire prosthetic is a single piece and in most cases is permanently fixed in place.
Technically, the dental crowns are placed onto the “abutment” teeth on each side of the gap. The false tooth or teeth are known as pontics. We prefer our pontics to be made from porcelain, as porcelain closely resembles the translucence and shine of a natural tooth.
How long the dental bridge procedure takes
The procedure for getting a dental bridge at our offices on Arapahoe Street in Golden will take two visits, each lasting about an hour to an hour and a half. During your first visit, your anchor teeth are prepared to take the crowns and impressions are made. In your second visit, we attach the bridge. The second appointment usually is shorter than the first.
How Are Dental Bridges Placed?
Placing a dental bridge involves two office visits. During your first appointment, we prepare the abutment teeth for their crowns. To do this, we shave down a portion of the enamel on both teeth to make room for the crowns to be placed over them. A crown overlays the entire tooth down to the gumline. Once the two abutment teeth are shaved down we take impressions of your teeth and send them to a dental lab. The lab uses these impressions to create the bridge. We also use your impressions to create a temporary bridge that we place while your dental bridge is being created (usually two weeks).
When your dental bridge is finished, you’ll return to our office and we’ll test the fit and check the color match with your adjacent teeth. We’ll adjust the fit as needed to be sure your bite and the bridge framework are just right. Sometimes, we place your dental bridge with temporary cement so that you can test the fit during normal use before we permanently cement it into place.
Hear What Our Patients Have to Say!
“This is the finest dental office I have been to in my 68 years of life- and I’ve had some fine dentists through the years. I am always glad to come to see Dr. Nancy Gill and her staff.” — Karen
“Professional and friendly. Most importantly the doctors and staff all do great work. If you need high-quality dental work at a reasonable price this is your place. Highly recommend.” — Jay
“Very prepared, very efficient, very cordial and very informative. Makes dental work less scary!! Hard to say I enjoyed any Dental visit, but they made me comfortable and I felt safe and under practiced and skilled hands. I will be back!” — Danny
How to care for your dental bridge
Cleaning the two crowns and the artificial teeth in between doesn’t require any special care, just normal brushing and flossing on the outside of the two crowns (and, of course, the rest of your teeth). It is important to also clean under the bridge. This can be done with a floss threader, which can be threaded under the bridge. You can also use an interdental brush, which can slide under the bridge to remove food particles and plaque. An oral irrigator, such as the Waterpik, can be used, as well. The goal of any of these methods is to remove any food debris, plaque, and bacteria on the gums under your bridge.
Will a bridge affect what I can eat?
Dental bridges don’t affect eating or speaking in any way. Patients don’t feel them, and they don’t need to adjust how they chew. With a Maryland bridge on your front teeth, you will feel the bands that anchor the bridge on the inside of your teeth, but this won’t change your eating.
That said, you will want to exercise some discipline with what you eat with a bridge. Hard foods can break a bridge if you bite down on the food directly with the bridge. Bridges can also come loose if you eat sticky, chewy foods.
how long dental bridges last
Dental bridges generally last from 5 to 15 years but can last even longer. What’s important is the care of the abutment teeth, along with your other natural teeth. If you take good care of them your bridge can last a long time.
Are Tooth Bridges Painful?
There isn’t much pain associated with getting a dental bridge. Really, the only part of the procedure that even requires local anesthetic is preparing the abutment teeth for their crowns. There may be some very minor soreness afterward, but this is minimal.
Can I combine having a bridge placed with other treatments?
It will take a couple appointments to have your teeth prepared for your bridge and then to have your bridge cemented onto your teeth. During these appointments, it’s easy for us to extend your appointment to include other services or treatments.
For instance, if you also wanted to replace a silver amalgam filling with a composite resin “tooth-colored” filling, we could do that in the same appointment. If you’d like to have your teeth whitened, that would be an easy extension. If you’re due to your twice-yearly cleaning and exam, we could add that to your appointment.
Alternatives to Dental Bridges
Dental implants are actually a better option for replacing missing teeth, but the process and expense can make some patients opt for a dental bridge instead. Implants are false teeth anchored by titanium “implants” that are actually inserted into the missing hole formerly occupied by the natural tooth root. The jawbone then grows around the implant, making it part of the jaw. The false tooth is attached to the implant. Implants behave exactly like a natural tooth, which is why they are the best tooth-replacement option.