In addition to affecting your self-confidence, missing teeth can cause a variety of other problems, from difficulty speaking normally to difficulty eating and poor nutrition. Fortunately, the world of dentistry has several excellent ways of replacing lost teeth. One of the most simple and time-tested treatments is the dental bridge. Dr. Stacey Sparkman Hall of Williamsburg Center Dental Health in Williamsburg, VA wants to take a moment to explain to her patients the benefits of dental bridges for restoring a healthy smile.
A bridge is a kind of prosthesis (replacement part) that replaces a missing tooth or teeth and is supported by the surrounding healthy teeth. In dental terms, the artificial replacement tooth is called a “pontic” (from the French word “pont” meaning bridge). The healthy adjacent teeth — called abutments — support the pontic on either side. The completed prosthesis crosses over the gap in your teeth just like a bridge crossing over a river.
The teeth that will form the abutment must be prepared to support the pont. To do this, they must be crowned or “capped.” This is done in the sam manner as if the teeth required crowns due to tooth decay or damage.
First, their enamel is removed, creating enough space for the crown to fit over and completely cover them while maintaining a lifelike appearance. The crowns on the abutment teeth will support the false tooth (pontic) in between. The pontic is really just another crown but with no living tooth underneath.
As explained above, if you have one missing tooth, your bridge will need three crowns: two to cover the abutment teeth on either side of the gap left by the missing tooth and one in between. This arrangement is known as a three-unit bridge.
If more than one tooth is missing, more crowns (and possibly more abutment teeth) will be needed to create the bridge. Your dentist must take several variables into account in this calculation: the number of teeth missing, the size, length and stability of the abutment tooth roots, and also from where in the mouth the teeth were lost.
So if you are missing three teeth, four abutment teeth may be necessary, thereby creating a seven-tooth bridge. Engineering and designing the bridge requires an understanding of the biology of the tooth-supporting gum and bone tissue as well as how to replace teeth.
Getting bridgework completed usually requires two visits to the dentist’s office. At the first visit, local anesthetic will be administered and your abutment teeth will be prepared as described above. Molds of your prepped teeth will be taken to prepare three-dimensional models of your teeth, used to construct the crowns. A temporary bridge will be placed before you leave the office.
When your permanent bridge is ready, it will be permanently placed during the second visit. You may need a little time to become accustomed to the feel of the new bridge against your tongue, lips, and cheeks, especially if you went some time without a tooth or teeth in that spot but you should quickly come to accept it as part of your own teeth.
Crowned teeth require the same routine care and maintenance as your other teeth. Be sure to brush twice daily and floss every day to reduce the build-up of dental plaque. It is even more important to schedule regular cleanings with your dental provider if you have a bridge. With conscientious care and dental examinations, a well-cared-for bridge can last it’s owner up to a decade.
If you are in the Williamsburg, VA area and would like to discuss tooth replacement options with Dr. Stacey Hall or even just have a routine teeth cleaning, call 757.565.6303 or schedule online with Dr. Hall today.