A dental bridge provides a false tooth (called a pontic) that is used to fill the gap created by missing teeth. Unlike traditional removable dentures, a dental bridge is fixed as it is anchored to the teeth at one or both sides using crowns held in place by resin or cement. If well cared for, a dental bridge should last for at least 10 years.
There are three main types of dental bridge: fixed, adhesive, and cantilever. The type of bridge used will depend on the quality of the teeth on either side of the gap, as well as the position of the gap.
- Fixed Bridges: the false tooth, or pontic, is anchored to crowns attached to the teeth either side of the gap. These crowns are usually made from gold or porcelain with the new tooth made from porcelain. This forms a very strong bridge that can generally be used anywhere in the mouth.
- Adhesive Bridges: sometimes called Rochette or Maryland Bridges, these dental bridges do not involve crowning the adjacent teeth, so are useful where they show little or no previous damage. The new tooth is generally made from plastic or ceramic and is attached via metal wings bonded to the adjacent teeth using resin. This type of bridge is particularly suitable for front teeth where stress is minimal, and the bond can be kept out of view behind the teeth.
- Cantilever Bridges: these dental bridges are used where there is a healthy tooth only on one side of the gap. The bridge is anchored to one or more teeth on just one side. As a result, this type of bridge is generally only suitable for low stress bridges such as front teeth.
The process – It will take at least two appointments to have a bridge prepared, fitted and adjusted correctly. During the first visit preparatory reshaping work will be done, usually under local anaesthetic, such as making space for new crowns for a fixed bridge. A mould will be taken of the teeth from which the bridge will be made. On the next visit, your bridge will be fitted and adjusted to ensure a correct bite.
Even the best fitting bridge will still have microscopic gaps around and beneath it, and these can quickly accumulate damaging debris if you do not follow a strict hygiene regime. Particular attention should be paid to the false tooth that forms the bridge, cleaning and flossing regularly. Extra care should also be given to the supporting teeth either side of the bridge, as without these, the bridge will fail. There is a wide range of cleaning aids to help access the awkward areas around a bridge and these will happily be demonstrated for you.
Bridges – Conventional
- Can restore most gaps reliably and predictably
- Fixed in place and durable
- Usually more comfortable than a denture
- Improves bite and prevents unwanted movement of neighbouring teeth
- Requires removal of most significant tooth structure on neighbouring teeth
- Not always suitable for larger gaps
- Supporting teeth can still decay
- Increased risk of long term pulp / nerve damage to supporting teeth
Bridges – Adhesive
- Very little or no tooth reshaping
- Often cheaper than conventional bridges
- Less sturdy than conventional bridges
- Generally less suitable for missing back teeth
- No ability to alter shape or sizes of teeth
- Metal backing can show through thin teeth