The reason for a dental bridge is to replace a missing tooth. In order for a bridge to be possible it needs structurally stable teeth on either side of the missing tooth. A bridge can also be done between two dental implant abutments.
The term abutments may be a little confusing, but it actually is the same terminology used for a bridge that crosses over another road. On a bridge for cars the concrete and pillars that supports the bridge on either side are called the bridge abutments. In the mouth it is similar in that the natural teeth on either side of the missing tooth are called the abutment teeth. The abutments for a dental bridge can also be dental implants. Because natural teeth flex and implants do not, you cannot bridge from a natural to an implant. Thus, you either bridge from natural to natural tooth, or from implant to implant.
A dental bridge attaches to the abutment teeth on either side of the space with a crown, and the replacement tooth is suspended between the two crowns. A bridge is one solid unit, so when it is cemented to the teeth on either side of the missing tooth it is fixed into place and is not removable. As a general rule replacing a single tooth with a bridge is very successful. Replacing 2 teeth with a bridge becomes less strong, and replacing 3 or more teeth with a bridge is probably not a good long-term solution. The reason for this is when you make a three unit bridge you have two teeth supporting the pressure of three teeth. If you are missing two teeth, now the two abutment teeth supporting the bridge have to support the forces meant for four teeth. The bigger the span the more you are expecting the two teeth on each side of the bridge to support. If someone has a strong bite the bridge will fail if the span is too long. In the past, longer span bridges were done more commonly, but with the advent of dental implants long span bridges should be evaluated for implants rather than a bridge.
There are times when dental implants cannot be used to replace a tooth due to a lack of bone in the area, and a bridge may be the ideal solution. If the teeth on either side of the missing tooth are natural, with no decay or existing restorations, then an implant may be chosen so you don’t have to reduce the virgin, natural teeth for crowns to hold the bridge. Another consideration in doing a bridge is that in order to clean around it properly requires that you thread floss under the bridge to clean the teeth holding the bridge in place. Generally this is not a big deal to floss under the bridge, but it’s not as easy as cleaning a single dental implant. Replacing a single missing tooth with an implant requires no special flossing technique, you simply floss it like every other tooth in the mouth.
Bridges can be made of tooth colored material, and if done properly, no one should be able to tell the bridge from natural teeth. At Colorado Precision Dentistry and Orthodontics we are masters in creating and maintaining beautiful smiles. There is a reason people travel from out of state to see us. We also offer our opinion about treatment options at no fee, so please feel free to set up a time to sit down and discuss what beautiful things we can do to enhance your smile and optimize your dental health.