If you have one or more missing teeth, it can be easy to develop oral health problems beyond tooth decay, such as speech impediments and even periodontal disease. A tooth bridge, also known as a dental bridge, provides the support you need to prevent surrounding teeth from loosening or moving out of their correct positions. But what is a bridge, and how does it differ from a tooth implant?
What Is a Dental Bridge?
A bridge is a fixed appliance fitted into the mouth to fill the gap caused by missing teeth, according to the Academy of Osseointegration. This bridge is cemented to the "abutment teeth" on either side of the gap, providing an anchor so that it can be attached to either your natural teeth or the crowns fitted over them. Your dentist places artificial "pontic teeth" onto the bridge, in the space between the abutment teeth.
How They Differ from Implants
Implants are posts made from screws or cylinders, inserted surgically through your gum into the jawbone. Prosthetic teeth are then mounted individually on each of these posts, explains the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), to take the place of natural teeth and prevent the problems commonly associated with dental gaps. Keep in mind fitting implants is a much more complex procedure that requires surgical training. If your teeth are in excellent condition, then you won't have to worry about placing crowns or fitting a bridge to them.
Reasons You Might Need a Tooth Bridge
Gaps of any size between your teeth can cause problems. For example:
- The adjacent teeth begin to loosen, which causes them to shift out of their correct positions.
- Loose teeth in children may complicate the eruption of permanent teeth, encouraging them to come through improperly.
- Gaps and movement in teeth can affect your bite, according to Edward A Chipps, DDS, creating issues for your jaw and hindering your ability to speak and chew.
In the long term, a lack of dental support can cause other health issues as well, such as head- or earaches, as well as nose and throat irritation. This makes it important for patients to replace missing teeth as early as possible, rather than waiting to see whether problems go away on their own.
Types of Bridges
Different types of tooth bridges require different methods of fitting. Traditional bridges are typically made from porcelain or ceramic, and are fused to metal abutments. A cantilever bridge is supported on only one side of the gap. A bonded bridge is made from metal, and carries clips resembling wings on either side which are bonded to the back of the abutment teeth. This method often costs less than traditional bridges because the abutments don't always require crowns to cover them, but it may also be less secure than a traditional bridge.
Caring for Your Tooth Bridge
Good oral hygiene is important at any time, but when you're wearing a fixed appliance such as a dental bridge, it's even more crucial. Caring for your bridge appropriately gives it a lifespan of up to 10 years, according to the Canadian Dental Association. Just as you need to brush natural teeth daily using an appropriate toothbrush like the Colgate® 360°®, you also need to clean your bridgework thoroughly and use dental floss between each tooth.
Taking care of your bridge means taking care of your oral health. With this routine, you'll have the smile you want for as long as possible.
Learn more about dental crowns and tooth bridges in the Colgate Oral Care resources.