Sometimes it just happens: patients lose teeth. When a tooth falls out, there are many options dental professionals may recommend to fill the space. One of those options is a dental bridge for teeth. Dental bridges are supported by either natural teeth or implants, and they have several functions and benefits.
What Is a Bridge for Teeth?
Simply put, a dental bridge functions similarly to a bridge for a road: it spans the gap between two areas. Bridges are successful at closing a space that is created by a one or more missing teeth, and it is important to close these spaces. If left open, teeth can drift out of position and unequally distribute the force that biting places in the mouth. If left untreated, this drifting can lead to problems with the jaw, such as TMJ discomfort or uneven tooth wear, and cause stress on the remaining natural teeth. Bridges also restore a patient's ability to chew and speak following tooth loss.
Parts and Types of Dental Bridges
There are two parts to any dental bridge: the abutment and the pontic. The abutment of the bridge is where the bridge "hooks on" to either a patient's natural remaining teeth or a dental implant, the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) says. Depending on the type of bridge, there can be one or more abutments. A pontic is the "fake" tooth (or teeth) that the bridge aims to replace in the mouth. Generally, there is one pontic placed per missing tooth.
A bridge for teeth may fall into one of the following three categories:
- Standard bridge. Also known as a traditional bridge or double-abutted bridge, the standard bridge has two abutments that are cemented onto teeth on either side of the missing tooth. A pontic fits in between the abutments and fills the empty space.
- Maryland bridge. This type includes one pontic with wings of resin, metal or porcelain. The wings bond to the teeth on either side of the missing tooth space. Maryland bridges are often used on front teeth that do not withstand a lot of chewing force. This type also allows the dentist to be more conservative in the amount of tooth structure he or she carves away to maintain bonding for the bridge.
- Cantilever bridge. This type of bridge is employed when an abutment tooth is available on only one side of the missing tooth. These types of bridges are not very common because toward the back of the mouth there is often too much biting force to withstand a pontic with only one abutment to support it. In addition, since the introduction of implants, dental professionals often choose an implant for treatment in the very back of the mouth over a cantilever bridge, the AAP notes.
Tooth Bridge Care
Patients cannot remove a bridge at home because bridges are held in place by permanent cement that seals the area where the bridge material meets the tooth or dental implant. A patient can care for his or her bridge with special dental aids that are available over-the-counter. Using specialized instruments, like proxy brushes and floss threaders, can remove the plaque and germs that build up under a pontic. An antibacterial mouthwash, such as Colgate Total® Advanced Pro-Shield™, is also helpful in decreasing the amount of germs that create problems under a bridge. By investing in these products, patients can maintain optimal oral hygiene at home between their routine preventive dental visits.