Missing teeth can lead to all kinds of problems, from difficulty speaking to problems getting proper nutrition due to difficulty eating. All this is in addition to damaging your self-confidence and ability to make a good first impression. Fortunately, cosmetic dentistry now has several different methods for replacing lost teeth that are available to patients.
One of the simplest and most reliable methods is the dental bridge. Dr. Donald Reid, the skilled and professional dentist behind Donald Reid Dental Artistry in Truckee, CA, wants to take a moment to explain the benefits of bridges for restoring a healthy smile.
What is a Dental Bridge?
A bridge is a prosthesis (artificial replacement part) that fills in the gap left by a missing tooth and is supported by the remaining healthy teeth around it. In dental terms, the artificial replacement tooth is called a “pontic” (from the French word “pont” meaning bridge). The healthy adjacent teeth — the abutments — anchor the pontic on either side. The completed restoration crosses over the gap in your teeth just like a bridge spanning a canyon.
However, the abutment teeth must be prepared to support the pont by being crowned or “capped.” Crowns are usually used to cover teeth that have been treated for excessive tooth decay or damage.
To begin the crowning process, first, the abutment teeth must have their enamel removed, creating enough space for the crown to fit over and completely cover them while maintaining a lifelike appearance. The crowns on the abutment teeth will anchor the pontic in place between them, filling the gap left by the missing tooth. The pontic is really just another crown but without a tooth living underneath.
Building a Bridge
As explained above, if you are missing only one tooth, your bridge will still require three crowns: two to cover the abutment teeth on either side of the gap left by the missing tooth and one in between. This arrangement is known as a three-unit bridge.
If more than a single tooth is missing, more crowns (and possibly more abutment teeth) will be needed to create the bridge. Your dentist must account for several variables when calculating this: the number of teeth missing, the size, length and stability of the abutment tooth roots, and also from where in the mouth the teeth were lost.
So if you are missing three teeth, four abutment teeth may be necessary, which would create a seven-tooth bridge. Engineering and designing the bridge requires Dr. Reid to have an understanding of the biology of the tooth-supporting gum and bone tissue as well as how to replace teeth.
What to Expect
Bridgework can usually be completed in just two visits to Donald Reid Dental Artistry. Local anesthetic will be administered and your abutment teeth will be prepared as described above. Molds of the abutment teeth will be made to create three-dimensional models of them. These will be used to craft the crowns. A temporary bridge will be placed during that first visit before you leave the office so that you will still be able to eat and speak as you’re accustomed to.
When your permanent bridge is ready, it will be permanently placed place during the second visit. You will need to become accustomed to the feel of the new bridge against your tongue, lips, and cheeks, but will eventually come to accept it as part of your own teeth.
Caring for your Bridge
Crowned teeth require the same dutiful care and maintenance as your other teeth. Be sure to brush your bridge twice daily and floss every day to reduce the build-up of dental plaque around it. If you have a bridge, it is even more important to schedule regular cleanings with your dental provider. A well-cared-for bridge can last for a decade or more with proper care.
Dental Bridges in Truckee, CA
If you are in the Lake Tahoe, CA area and would like to discuss tooth replacement options with a skilled professional dentist or even just have a routine teeth cleaning, call (530) 206-0392 or schedule online with Dr. Reid today.