Dental BridgesFor people who have lost teeth or have teeth with severe damage, crowns and bridges are necessary for restoring normal function for speech and chewing, and also to improve your smile.  A crown restores and strengthens a damaged tooth. A bridge replaces a missing tooth with an artificial one, supported by a crown on both sides, literally bridging the gap where a tooth is missing.

Another benefit of bridges is that they prevent the teeth on both sides of the gap from drifting out of place, and they also avoid further problems later in life that may be caused by overusing only one side of the mouth.  They help reduce or eliminate trapped food particles in the gaps or around healthy teeth, thus reducing the chances of tooth decay.

In general, bridges replace only one or two missing teeth and dentists do not consider them suitable for larger gaps.  Crown supported bridges are sometimes preferred over implants because a bridge doesn’t require surgery or waiting several months for a dental implant to osseointegrate.  Dental bridges of all types are used to give you back your smile and self-confidence, and there are three main types, but the focus here is on traditional bridges.

A traditional dental bridge is the most common type of bridge, usually made of either porcelain fused to metal or ceramics.  A crown is created for the tooth or implant on either side of the missing tooth, with a fabricated tooth called a pontic in between.  A traditional dental bridge is typically recommended when one or both of the abutment/support teeth have or need a crown or some other type of dental restoration.  If both abutment teeth are healthy and in good shape, and don’t have or need a crown, then a dental implant is the recommended course of treatment in order to avoid removing tooth structure from a healthy tooth.

Traditional Materials

In addition to the type of bridge, the material used on the bridge and the artificial teeth is an important consideration. The most commonly used materials, porcelain, ceramic, or porcelain-fused-to-metal, are strong and resemble the natural color of teeth.

Dentists also use bridges as temporary gap fillers, fabricated from a composite acrylic resin, to allow your mouth to heal after surgery and before further dental work, such as implants.

Procedures in Detail

Both crown and bridge procedures require two visits to the dentist. On the first appointment, the dentist prepares the tooth or teeth that are going to support the crowns. The first step is to administer a local anesthetic. Then the dentist removes the filling and the damaged part of the tooth until it is ready for the crown. When a bridge is required, the dentist performs this procedure for the teeth on both sides of the gap that will be a support structure to hold the artificial tooth or teeth in place.

The dentist then takes impressions by making a mold of your prepared teeth.  For a bridge mold, this incorporates the gap as well so that the artificial tooth is fabricated to the exact size. The dentist may choose to insert a temporary bridge or crown while the permanent one is being made. If that’s the case, another impression is taken and the temporary bridge or crown is fabricated from a composite acrylic resin, and put into place.

There is a new cutting-edge technology being used in place of impressions:  Some dentists have equipment for taking digital optical impressions, that capture clear and highly accurate impression data in mere minutes, by the use of a small hand-held wand with a camera, called an intraoral scanner. The impression information then is transferred to a computer and used to fabricate precise restorations, either by a dental lab or a milling machine on site in the dental office.

When you return to have the permanent bridge or crown fitted, the dentist will administer another local anesthetic and remove the temporary bridge or crown if there is one.  The teeth are cleaned and the new, permanent bridge or crown is put in place, disinfecting the tooth and cleaning away any excess material. After about 10 minutes, the dentist checks the bridge or crown to make sure there are no problems.

How Long Do Traditional Dental Bridges and Crowns Last?

A professionally fitted traditional dental bridge or crown should last at least 10 years, provided a proper dental hygiene regimen is followed.  Many people have them for the rest of their lives without any problems provided they don’t do anything detrimental to their teeth, like chewing hard objects, biting fingernails, smoking, etc.  However, if you notice any problem with your bridge or crown, you must make an immediate appointment with your dentist to have it repaired or replaced.

If you are interested in traditional dental bridges, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.