A dental bridge is one of the most popular and cost-effective restorative dental options for aesthetic reasons which is also vital for your oral health. It can literally bridge the gap if you have one or more missing teeth–which not only looks bad, but if something does not fill that space soon after the tooth is lost, it can have serious consequences.
Whether the cause is an accident that knocks out the tooth or lax brushing and flossing habits that results in periodontal disease that causes it to fall out, the mouth naturally has an urge to fill the gap. The neighboring teeth begin to lean towards it and in the process they also become loose and are in danger of falling out. In short order, you won’t just need to plug a single hole in your smile, you will require a set of dental implants or even a denture.
A dental bridge is an attractive alternative because it can be placed over the space without going through extensive surgery to do an implant or trying to find a comfortable fit for a custom denture. It is comparatively inexpensive, lasts 5-15 years (depending on how well you maintain your oral health), and stops the misalignment that starts when the tooth is missing. Dentures do not stop that process, which is why they need to be adjusted every few years to continue to fit, while implants are far more expensive (though more permanent than a bridge).
A bridge also distributes the force of your bite so that it is not uneven (as it was when a tooth was missing), avoiding further damage of other teeth. It also allows you to chew and speak normally and maintains the structure of your face (teeth place an important role in its shape).
A traditional dental bridge involves placing a dental crown on the teeth or implants on either side of the gap. A pontic is an artificial tooth that fills the space and is attached to the crowns. Bridges are usually made of porcelain or porcelain-fused metal.
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Preparation involves removing some of the enamel of the teeth to make room for the crowns, then taking an impression of the area to send to a dental laboratory to craft the bridge, and creating a temporary bridge to protect the area until the final version is ready.
A less expensive alternative may be suitable called a Maryland bridge, which consists of a metal frame that is attached with bonding resin to the back of the teeth and the artificial tooth. This avoids having to remove enamel, but a Maryland bridge may not last as long.