A bridge is a fixed dental restoration (to restore a lost part), cemented into place and not removable by the patient. A bridge restores a gap or a space where a tooth is missing or has been removed. A bridge is created by preparing the teeth at either end of the space for a crown (called a ‘retainer’ on a bridge) and having the laboratory construct an artificial tooth in the middle (called the ‘pontic’ on a bridge); the part of the bridge that replaces your missing tooth is called a pontic. More than one tooth can be replaced with a bridge.
Why do you need a bridge?
A bridge is generally recommended for patients who are going to lose a tooth, have lost a tooth, or didn’t develop the tooth. A bridge is generally the desired replacement when patients don’t want to 1. wait for the healing required for an Implant or 2. have a removable
Partial Denture placed. In other words, the patient wants a permanent, non-removable replacement as soon as possible.
When a tooth is lost and a space is created, adjacent teeth will tip, rotate, and the opposing tooth will drift into the space of the lost tooth; bridges prevent these issues by holding the remaining teeth in place. Once problems of the lost tooth occur, this creates difficulty in cleansing the mouth (leading to tooth decay and gum disease). Bridges restore proper function, and chewing of food to the appropriate degree of digestion.
What are the different types of bridges?
- All Zirconium: Extremely strong and the best choice for patients who grind their teeth
- Zirconium: zirconium core with porcelain over the core: very strong; an all zirconium crown: incredibly hard and a good choice for patients who clench and grind their teeth
- Empress: all porcelain: incredibly beautiful, but can fracture easily and not recommended for dental bridges.
Porcelain fused to metal
- Porcelain fused to metal: high noble, semi-precious, or base metal
- All metal: high noble, semi-precious, or base metal
What is a cantilever bridge?
A cantilever (supported at only one end) bridge is designed differently. It replaces a missing tooth when there is no tooth on the other side of the space available to attach it to (as there is with a conventional bridge). Typically, this type of bridge replaces only one tooth. A cantilever bridge attaches to two teeth in front of or behind the space, with an artificial tooth extending off of these two attached crowns replacing the missing tooth.
What is a Maryland bridge?
A Maryland bridge is a single tooth replacement with “wings” on either side of the replacement tooth. The wings are bonded into place on the back side of the teeth on either side of the space where the replacement tooth fits. Although this type of bridge has fallen out of favor, there are still many Maryland bridges in use and functioning perfectly today.
Please note: Many patients are under the impression that once a crown or a bridge is placed, the tooth can no longer decay. This could not be further from the truth; these restorations are attached to real teeth and, without good home tooth care can decay around the margins where the crown or bridge is attached to the teeth. This requires flossing under your bridge every day to remove bacterial plaque. Practice great home tooth care and protect the investment you have made in your bridge, teeth and yourself.