A dental bridge is a restoration technique used to replace missing teeth. They were the only restoration that could replace a missing tooth and be fixed in the mouth prior to dental implants. A bridge is attached in some way to a tooth either side of the missing tooth and is fixed to these teeth so that it cannot be removed once it is placed. It is made in a dental laboratory from either a ceramic or metal alloy. These are created using dental or digital impressions. While the breidge is being made, a temporary bridge is made to restore the missing tooth.
It is an effective way to replace missing teeth. A dental bridge is robust and can be very aesthetic if required. A dental bridge requires the preparation of the teeth either side of the gaph left by the missing tooth in a similar way to the preparation required for a crown. The main difference is that the teeth either side of the space need to be prepared parallel to each other so that a single bridge can be made to be placed on these teeth.
Bridges have a limited life span and are typically expected to last up to approximately 15 years. During your consultation, our dentist will explain this to you. Bridges are the only alternative for a fixed replacement of a missing tooth in cases where dental implants are not suitable or possible.
What is the process for getting a dental bridge?
Examination and Consultation
Before a patient can have a dental bridge inserted, an assessment of all of the teeth, gums and surrounding bone needs to be done. In addition to this, the way the patient’s teeth fit together and the strength in the patient’s jaw muscles also needs to be examined. These observations give our dentist an idea of the type of materials that would be required.
In some cases, the teeth may be too small or may not have enough bone around them to support a bridge. In order for a bridge to last as long as possible, all of the above facotrs needs to be taken into account. Throughout the consultation process, the dentist will also discuss alternatives available to the patient, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of bridges.
A bridge preparation appointment includes local anaesthetic, tooth preparation, a final bridge impression, bite recording, and the construction and placement of the temporary bridge. The construction of a temporary bridge is a more complex and time-consuming procedure than that required for a temporary singular crown. The teeth must also be prepared in order for the bridge to have enough thickness to withstand the biting forces into the long term.
This preparation appointment has several similarities to the preparation appointment for a crown. The main difference is that care needs to be taken to ensure that the teeth are parallel to each other. At the end of the appointment, a temporary bridge is constructed and cemented with a temporary cement. The appointment for a bridge is typically twice as long as a crown appointment.
Placement of the bridge
The bridge is constructed in a dental laboratory in either ceramic, gold alloy, or a combination of both. The more precisely a bridge is made, the longer it will last. The bridge edges are polished using a microscope.
At the placement appointment, the temporary bridge and cement is removed. The bridge fit, colour and shape is checked and adjusted if necessary. Once the bridge is checked to be correct, it is typically initially placed with temporary cement for two or three weeks. During this time, the patient can assess whether they are comfortable for the bridge and if any adjustments are required.
The comfort of the bridge is assessed in the bite as well as the shape and colour. As bridges also replace missing teeth, it is important to know whether they work correctly when the patient is chewing and eating. Following this temporary stage, our dentist will review the bridge and make changes if required. This will generally take approximately an hour and alterations to the bridge are performed at our dental laboratory next door. If the changes made are significant, our dentist may replace the bridge temporarily for another few weeks to make sure the bridge is comfortable and effective. Following this, the bridge is placed with a permanent cement and once this is done, the bridge is unable to be removed.
There is usually mild to moderate discomfort following the initial procedure for 24-48 hours. Typically, this can be treated with mild analgesics, such as Panadol or Neurofen, which are taken following the tooth preparation appointment. We recommend taking these before the anaesthetic wears off and recommend a second analgesic prior to sleep. If a patient is experiencing worse pain than this, it should be controlled with stronger pain killers or would require a reassessment by our dentist.
After bridge placement
There is usually little (if any) discomfort following the placement of the bridge. It can take some time for patients to become accustomed to the new shapes within their mouth and it is common for a bridge to feel unusual when it is first placed, especially is the tooth that was replaced has been misssing for some time. The main disadvantage of a bridge is that the components are connected and it is necessary to use a floss threader. The most common way to clean a bridge is with an interproximal brush. This is a brush with small bristles that is used to clean between the teeth at the gumline and it is essential that this is done on a daily basis.
Dental bridges need to be checked on a regular basis but are generally fairly trouble-free if they are made well. A normal long-term dental bridge includes regular check-ups with the dentist and the bridge should be x-rayed approximately every two years to ensure that it is not decaying at the edges. With yearly check-ups and cleaning, a bridge should offer many years of use.