When you are a missing a tooth, it is a problem. This can be esthetic (a hole in your smile) or functional (trouble with chewing your food well). If you want to replace a missing tooth and implants are not an option for you, you may want to consider a dental bridge. A typical bridge consists of crowns on the teeth on either side of the missing tooth, which connect to an artificial tooth in between (picture Illinois and Missouri and the Popular Street Bridge).
Bridge can be made of:
- Ceramics (porcelain-like materials)
- Porcelain fused over a metal understructure
- Cast metals (like gold)
When creating a bridge, the teeth on either side of the space are reduced in size, reshaped, and prepared to hold the anchor crowns. These teeth must be strong enough to support the chewing pressures for both themselves and the artificial teeth they are attached to. This is the reason that there are limits as to how many teeth a bridge can span. A typical bridge has two anchors—one on each side—and one artificial tooth in between. If you do not have a back anchor (a tooth behind the missing one), it is usually not possible to do a bridge.
Advantages of Bridges
- Replacement teeth are fixed in place (not removable).
- The artificial tooth restores lost chewing function.
- Replacing the missing tooth keeps adjacent teeth and opposing teeth from shifting into the empty space.
- Bridges are less expensive than implants in the short term.
- A bridge is often covered by many insurance plans (less deductibles and copays).
Disadvantages of Bridges
- Anchor teeth must be modified to support the abutment crowns (even if those teeth are perfectly intact and healthy).
- Because the bridge is a one-unit piece, it is not possible to floss from the top down in between the different sections and you must make an effort to floss under the bridge to keep the anchor teeth healthy.
- If an anchor tooth decays, the entire bridge must be replaced.
Like crowns, bridges require two appointments. During the first appointment, we prepare/reshape the anchor teeth and take an impression of the prepared teeth. While the bridge is being made (which takes about a week), you’ll wear a temporary bridge or crown to cover and protect the prepared teeth.
The impression is then sent to the lab, which uses it to make a model to create the bridge. When possible, Dr. Hartfield has her lab use a CAD/CAM computer process to design and create the bridge as this procedure can generate a very precise fitting bridge.
Once the lab completes the bridge, you’ll return to the office to have the temporaries taken off. Dr. Hartfield will then fit the permanent bridge, make any necessary adjustments, and cement it into place.
Do You Want To Replace Your Missing Teeth?
If you have missing teeth and want to discuss your options to replace them, Dr. Hartfield will be happy to assist you in making the choice that is best for you. Please call (618) 234-7100 and her staff will find a convenient appointment time for you.