If you have recently lost your tooth, whether due to an injury, medical condition, or natural causes, you may be wondering what your options are to restore your smile. A missing tooth can create an unsightly gap, but it’s often more than a cosmetic problem. You could also experience pain when chewing, discomfort in your jaw, or other problems that are caused by a change to your bite.
One of the most common solutions to this problem is having a dental bridge placed in your mouth. If you haven’t gone through this procedure before, it’s helpful to understand the process and what to expect.
What is a dental bridge?
A dental bridge is a solution when you have lost a tooth, or when you have a gap that is causing your other teeth to become loose. This replacement tooth will fill in the space where something is missing, creating a natural appearance while helping to restore the tooth.
There are four main types of bridges, and your dentist will determine which is the right option for your situation.
- A traditional bridge is the most common type, which includes one or more fake teeth held in place with crowns. These crowns are cemented to the teeth surrounding the tooth that is missing.
- Another option is a cantilever bridge, which is supported by a crown on only one side. If you only have one tooth next to your missing tooth, you can still have this type of crown secured to your mouth.
- Maryland bridges offer a more conservative approach, using porcelain or metal framework to hold the fake tooth in place. These bridges aren’t as strong as those cemented in, so teeth that have a lot of biting force won’t be able to hold up with a Maryland bridge.
- The final type is an implant-supported bridge, which is often used when you have more than one tooth that is missing. These bridges are held in place by implants, which are secured to your jawbone for maximum stability. Most dentists will place one implant for each tooth that is missing.
Dental bridge procedure overview
If you think a dental bridge could be right for you, it’s important to understand what to expect during and after this common tooth replacement procedure.
Consultation with your dentist
Your dentist will first conduct a thorough dental exam to determine if you are a good candidate for a dental bridge procedure. 3-D dental cone beam CT scans may also be used which can give your dentist a much closer look at your mouth and jaw structure. Be advised that some patients need additional dental treatments to get their teeth and gums healthy before they can schedule a dental bridge procedure.
Your dentist will either recommend same-day dental crowns, or lab-fabricated crowns to craft any teeth needed for your dental bridge.
Tooth preparation & dental impressions
Once it is determined that you are good candidate for the procedure, your dentist will prepare and reshape your natural teeth that are adjacent to your missing teeth. Doing so will allow your healthy teeth to accommodate the dental crowns used to bridge the gap in your smile. Because this process will require tooth reshaping, the area that is being worked on will be numbed with a local anesthetic so you won’t feel a thing.
If you have just one missing tooth, your dental bridge will be comprised of three units: two dental crowns (abutments) that will cover the healthy teeth on either side of the bridge, and then another tooth (pontic) to fill the empty space between them.
If you have more than one missing tooth, additional pontics will be needed, and more abutment teeth may be required. This will all depend on your unique needs.
Same-Day dental bridge creation & placement
If your dentist recommends same-day dental crowns, an optical impression of your prepared teeth will be taken and uploaded using special computer software. Your dentist will then use the software to design any crowns you may need for your bridge. An in-house milling machine will grind a block of tooth-colored dental ceramic into the shapes designed specifically for your crowns.
Once your crowns are created, your dentist will refine and fit them accordingly and then permanently cement them into place — in just one visit!
Lab-Fabricated dental bridge creation
If your dentist feels you are better-suited for lab-fabricated crowns, a mold of your prepared teeth will be taken using a special dental putty. This 3-D model will help dental lab techs to craft dental crowns that are unique to your smile. Because it can take a couple of weeks to receive your permanent dental bridge, your dentist will place a temporary bridge during this appointment to ensure your smile is protected while you wait.
Lab-Fabricated dental bridge placement
Once your dental crowns are ready, you will return to your dentist’s office for placement of your permanent bridge. During this time, your new crowns will be fitted and bonded to the adjacent teeth, and the pontic tooth will be fitted and bonded to the empty space.
After a dental bridge procedure
You should expect some transition time after your procedure in order to get accustomed to the feel of your dental bridge, and accept it as a part of your own smile. Some simple ways to keep your teeth healthy after dental bridge are:
- Brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly to remove food clinging to your teeth.
- Use mouthwash daily to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
- Maintain a healthy and reasonable diet. Avoid eating lots of sweets because they can cause tooth decay.
You can ask your dentist for advice on daily dental treatments, how to brush or floss properly. Then, just try to maintain this habit every day, the condition of teeth and gums will improve and stabilize.
How long does the bridge last?
Dental experts say that dental bridges can be expected to last anywhere from 5-15 years, but a lot of it depends on how well the individual has cared for their bridge and surrounding teeth in the intervening years. Your oral hygiene routine and diet, as well as the frequency of your visits to a Lake Jackson dentist, play a huge role in your bridge’s longevity.
How much does a dental bridge cost?
The cost of dental bridges depends on several factors, including:
- The potential need for additional procedures (such as fillings or root canals) in one or two of the adjoining teeth.
- The artistic technique of the dentist and lab technician.
- The location of the dentist.
- The type of material used in the bridge.
- The preparation of teeth involved in the procedure.