One of the difficulties for dental phobic patients is the thought that a visit to the dentist for a standard check-up may lead to more complex dental work that is lengthy, expensive and hard to endure. These Q&A articles are designed to provide you with a very brief overview of the different types of treatments and procedures that may be required if you have been avoiding the dentist for a long period of time. This article gives a breakdown of dental bridges: what are they, do you need one and what can you expect from the treatment?
What is a bridge?
A bridge is a technique used by dentists to replace missing teeth. The bridge allows a false tooth to be held rigidly in the place where an existing tooth is missing. The bridge usually attaches to existing natural teeth, so you must have some good, healthy teeth on either side of the missing tooth for a bridge to be an appropriate form of treatment.
Why do I need a bridge?
For many people, it is tempting to think that a missing tooth does not need to be replaced. Often, it won’t cause pain or distress in the way that a decayed tooth will, for example. However, there are a number of reasons why it may be worth considering a bridge to replace a missing tooth. Obviously, there are the issues surrounding facial aesthetics and balance. But also, a missing tooth can make your teeth harder to clean and as food becomes lodged in the gap, then the healthy teeth around that gap are more likely to decay. Your teeth around the gap will also attempt to ‘compensate’ for the gap in your bite and will begin to grow crookedly. So the end result will be that your crooked teeth become far more vulnerable to decay and damage.
What does the procedure for a bridge involve?
As we mentioned above, you need to have healthy teeth around the missing tooth which can provide end supports for the bridge. The first step in the process, once these healthy ‘supports’ have been identified, is to reshape them and place crowns on them. The false tooth is then placed between these two crowns and bonded to them with dental cement. The bridge is a permanent solution for a missing tooth, so once it is in place it cannot be removed in the same way that dentures, for example, can be.
What are the alternatives?
The alternatives will depend on how your current teeth are and whether your dentist thinks you have healthy enough teeth to support a bridge. If not, another option could be a dental implant, a procedure in which the false tooth is fastened directly onto the jawbone. Alternatively, dentures may be a more suitable option for you, as they are more flexible and can be removed for cleaning. Your dentist should talk through the various options with you while you are putting together your treatment plan.
What questions should I ask my dentist?
One of the most important discussions to have with your dentist is how you look after your bridge and ensure that it stays clean. In particular, your dentist will show you techniques that help you to clean around and under the false tooth, where food can easily become trapped causing gum disease and halitosis.
It is also important to remember that your bridge is only successful because it can attach to healthy, natural teeth. Regular brushing is required to look after these teeth too, so that they can continue performing the support function that your bridge needs.
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