Bridges are positioned to replace missing teeth. Not only do they fill the unsightly spaces left by lost teeth, but they also help support the teeth adjacent to, and directly opposite, the missing teeth.
When a tooth is lost, the adjacent teeth may shift position. The tooth opposite to the lost tooth may begin to extend out of its socket. Shifted teeth are harder to clean, making them more susceptible to cavities and permanent bone loss. The bite may also be altered making it more difficult to chew, possibly damaging the temporomandibular joint - the TMJ or jaw joint.
The bridge procedure is frequently completed in two office visits. On the first visit, the teeth on either side of the missing tooth are cleared of any decay and shaped to accept special crowns called abutments. An impression is then taken from which a model of the teeth will be made by the dental laboratory. Your dentist will then place a temporary bridge.
Over the next one to two weeks, the lab will create the permanent bridge on the models made from your dental impression. The abutments will attach to and support a pontic - the portion of the bridge replacing the missing tooth. At the next visit, the temporary bridge is removed and the permanent bridge is positioned. Once properly located, it's cemented in place.
There are other types of bridges in addition to the anterior bridge, each designed to meet almost any patient's individual needs.
Posterior Gold Bridge
Although not very natural looking, gold is considered by many to be the finest material available for restorations. Gold bridges, however, are usually limited to the posterior, or back teeth - the molars.
Posterior Porcelain and Metal Bridge - A porcelain bridge is constructed like a porcelain crown: layers of porcelain are built-up on a gold or metal core. The metal provides great strength, while the porcelain looks very natural. Most bridges are made in this way.
A Maryland bridge is a somewhat less-expensive alternative to other bridges. In cases where the missing teeth are surrounded by healthy, unrestored teeth, it is advisable to retain as much of the natural tooth structure as possible. These teeth are not crowned, but instead, a thin retentive frame which supports the pontic is bonded to them. This produces a strong restoration with minimal or no tooth reduction.
The Multiple-Unit Bridge - When more than one isolated tooth must be replaced, a larger structure is needed. The multiple-unit bridge has the advantages of permanence, coupled with normal performance and appearance.