Dental bridges can last for decades, but eventually they need repairing or replacing. A dental bridge is a fixed appliance that is placed in the mouth when one or more teeth are missing. Usually, the pontic (or false) teeth are anchored to the healthy teeth on either side of the gap, which are called the abutment teeth. You might need dental bridge repair because your bridge has broken, or your dentist identified a problem during a routine checkup.
Causes of Dental Bridge Failure
Most dental bridges are made of ceramics or porcelain fused to an underlying metal frame, and lacking oral care can cause these products to fail. Bacteria can enter under the bridge through the crowns and manage to produce decay in the abutment teeth, according to the Windsor Centre for Advanced Dentistry. Abutment teeth can also fracture.
Problems in the bridge itself include breakage of the underlying metal and a fracture of the coating or pontic. Sometimes there aren't any structural problems with the bridge, but it doesn't fit well in the mouth or the color doesn't match the surrounding teeth.
When They Need Fixing
Dental bridges are an effective treatment for missing teeth, but they aren't a permanent solution. The Cleveland Clinic states that dental bridges should last five to seven years or longer – up to 35 years according to the Creighton University School of Dentistry. But because the abutment teeth are covered, signs of decay aren't visible, and sensitivity in the teeth or gums around a dental bridge could be a sign that it needs repair. You might also notice or feel a crack in the tooth, or pieces of the porcelain may come off. If you notice chips or cracks in your dental bridge, or feel pain or sensitivity when chewing on it or brushing it, you should see your dentist.
Dental Bridge Repair
Treatment to repair a dental bridge depends on the cause of the failure. If the issue is with an abutment tooth, the dentist must remove the bridge. Fixed bridges are typically cemented to the abutment teeth, so this often requires breaking the original bridge. Once the supporting teeth have been treated, and if they're still healthy, a replacement bridge can be made. If the dentist can't restore the abutment teeth, they can be replaced with implants that support a new bridge. The abutment teeth and the missing teeth can also be replaced with implants, which are placed surgically into the jaw bone.
If the porcelain coating on the bridge is chipped or fractured, but the bridge is otherwise sound, it may be possible for the dentist to repair the coating. Dentists can sometimes repair a fractured pontic as well, as detailed in The Journal of the American Dental Association.
Caring for a New Bridge
Good oral care habits increase the longevity of a bridge. Twice-daily brushing with a toothpaste such as Colgate Total® Advanced Deep Clean Toothpaste ™ can help prevent decay of the abutment teeth, and dentists often recommend a special flossing tool that cleans the gap between the gum and the pontic. A regular professional cleaning schedule and a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables also helps to maintain good mouth health.
Failing bridges don't repair themselves and only get worse over time, so if your bridge is giving you problems, book an appointment at your dentist's right away. He can offer a range of options to restore your confident smile.