Missing teeth can be a cause of concern. If dental phobia is holding you back from getting the treatment you need, this guide will let you know everything you need to know about dental bridges and how you can manage your phobia.
A dental bridge is a prosthetic appliance that replaces missing teeth. It is called a bridge because it quite literally ‘bridges the gap’ between the remaining teeth on either side.
Aside from the obvious cosmetic effects and challenges associated with chewing, if you have a gap in your mouth where you’ve lost a tooth or several teeth, it can put you at risk of further dental problems such as:
- Gum diseases including gingivitis or periodontitis
- Further tooth decay on nearby teeth
- A loss of bone mass in your jaw
- The gradual movement of neighbouring teeth
Gaps between teeth can become harbours for plaque and tartar to build up. To limit these problems, your dentist may recommend having a prosthetic appliance fitted such as a dental bridge.
The Benefits of Dental Bridges
Bridges are commonly used and most dental practices provide this service. Benefits of getting a dental bridge include:
- Restoring the natural appearance of your teeth
- Providing the ability to chew effectively
- Retaining your normal facial structure by preventing bone loss in the jaw and around the missing tooth
- Restoring your ability to speak normally as missing teeth can cause speech issues
- To stop neighbouring teeth from moving out of position
The Disadvantages of Dental Bridges
Although on the whole dental bridges are beneficial, there are some drawbacks or issues that could lead to further treatment. These include:
- Your abutment teeth may become weaker as a result of the procedure and may` need replacing with dental implants
- In the instance that the abutment teeth provide insufficient support for the bridge, it may collapse
- If a dental crown is not properly fitted, plaque may infiltrate the tooth and lead to decay
- If the abutment teeth ever get damaged it will compromise the integrity of the bridge
What Does a Dental Bridge Look Like?
A dental bridge is typically made up of the following:
- A pontic – This is a replacement tooth. Typically these are made of porcelain to match the appearance of your natural teeth, however, they can also be made of gold, alloy, or a combination of materials.
- An abutment – These are the teeth that sit beside the pontic, supporting it in place. These anchor teeth are capped with dental crowns which the pontic is then cemented to.
The Different Types of Dental Bridges
There are four main types of dental bridges. These are:
- Traditional bridges
- Cantilever bridges
- Maryland bridges
- Implant-supported bridges
A traditional bridge is made up of a false tooth that is held into position with dental crowns. These crowns are cemented onto abutment teeth on either side of the prosthesis. This type of dental bridge is the most commonly used.
A cantilever bridge works in much the same way as a traditional bridge, however, in this case, there is only one dental crown used. This means that you only need to have one natural healthy tooth situated next to the missing tooth.
As with traditional bridges, Maryland bridges require natural abutment teeth on either side of the gap being filled. Where a traditional bridge uses crowns cemented to the abutment teeth, this type of bridge uses a metal or porcelain framework bonded to the rear of the abutments.
Similar to traditional braces, Maryland bridges require healthy teeth on both sides of the missing tooth gap.
This type of bridge is sometimes referred to as an adhesive bridge.
Implant-supported bridges make use of dental implants instead of crowns or metal frameworks. For each missing tooth, an implant will be surgically placed. Once the implants are in place, they will support the bridge.
Where it is not possible to place an implant for each missing tooth, the bridge may be made using a pontic that is suspended between a pair of implant-supported crowns.
This type of bridge is regarded as the most stable option and generally requires two surgical procedures:
- The first surgery will be carried out to place the implants into the jawbone
- The second surgery is to have the bridge placed
Due to the fact that your jawbone will need to heal following the implant procedure, recovery time can be extensive and it may take several months to complete the process.
The Dental Bridge Procedure
If you have dental phobia, you may have anxieties associated with any potential procedure. One of the ways that you can minimise your worries is to learn as much about the way that dental bridges are placed. In addition to this, asking your dentist any questions may also help put your mind at ease.
In order for the crowns to be properly fitted, the abutment teeth will need to be filed down. The supporting teeth will also have to be strong enough to take the additional pressure while biting.
This may sound scary, or uncomfortable, however, it will be carried out under local anaesthetic. If you’re concerned about this element of the procedure, talk to your dentist and find out what sedation options are available at the practice.
Once the anchor teeth are prepared, impressions will be taken from your mouth. These will then be sent to a laboratory where a bridge will be made to fit your mouth. While this is being made, your dentist may place a temporary bridge and crowns. These will help protect your gums and teeth while they are exposed.
After your permanent bridge has been prepared, your dentist will invite you in for another appointment where the temporary structure will be removed and your new metal or porcelain bridge will be placed in position.
During this visit, the dentist will adjust the position of your new bridge to ensure that it fitted comfortably and correctly. Follow up visits may be scheduled to check that the bridge is fitted perfectly. Once the dentist is satisfied with the position, the bridge will be permanently cemented in place.
Caring for Dental Bridges
Because a dental bridge is permanently fixed in position, it is not necessary to remove it so that it can be cleaned. Instead, you will need to clean them with toothpaste and a toothbrush as you would do with your natural teeth.
To ensure debris doesn’t gather at the base of your bridge, you’ll need to use dental floss to clean the gap. Advice on how to do this can be provided by your dentist or hygienist. In addition to this, rinsing your mouth with mouthwash is also advised.
When a dental bridge is looked after properly, it can last for a decade or more.
Dental Bridge FAQs
One of the key ways to address dental phobia is to ask questions. We’ve compiled some of the most common questions surrounding dental bridges with comprehensive answers. If you have any further questions, it’s always worth noting these down and taking them with you to your consultation.
How do dental bridges work?
Dental bridges ‘bridge’ the gap left by missing teeth. The replacement tooth or pontic is held in place by a crown. These crowns are either placed on top of pre-prepared natural ‘abutment’ teeth or onto dental implants.
How many teeth can be replaced by a dental bridge?
Dental bridges are an effective way of replacing a single tooth, however, it is not uncommon for them to be used to replace two or more teeth. The greater the number of teeth being replaced, the more crowns may be required.
In the case of several teeth being replaced, the dentist may suggest having implants to increase the stability of the bridge.
What are dental bridges made from?
The pontic used to replace your missing tooth will generally be made from porcelain, however, it could also be made from gold, alloy, or a combination of materials.
What are the alternatives to dental bridges?
There are several alternatives to dental bridges. Your dentist should provide you with information about the options available to you. These may include:
- Dentures (full or partial) – These are removable prosthetic teeth that are taken out for cleaning.
- Dental implants including All-On-4s – Implants are surgically attached to your jawbone to mimic the root of your natural teeth. Where only one tooth is missing, a single implant may be used. In the case of several teeth needing replacement, All-On-4s can be used.
Dental bridges and dentures are both available on the NHS, however, dental implants are only typically an option when they are deemed to be a clinical necessity.
What can you do to relieve your anxiety over getting dental bridges?
While getting a dental bridge fitted is a routine and minimally invasive procedure, having doubts, fears, or anxieties over your treatment is perfectly normal.
If you experience any anxiety surrounding the procedure, find a dentist that is Dental Phobia Certified. When you book your appointment, discuss your phobias and it may be possible to get an extended appointment so that the dentist can work with you at your pace.
Often, sedation dentistry is an option that allows you to undergo treatment without any pain, discomfort, or anxiety.
Other ways you can reduce your anxiety include taking a friend or family member to your appointment and discussing your specific concerns and phobias in-depth with your dentist.
How much do dental bridges cost?
Dental bridges are usually more expensive than getting dentures, however, they offer greater stability and comfort. The price of a dental bridge will depend on several factors. These include:
- The number of teeth being replaced
- The type of material used in the pontic
- Which type of bridge is being placed
- Any dental issues that may complicate the procedure
- Whether you’re having the procedure through the NHS or privately
Having a dental bridge is a good investment in your oral health. Not only will the bridge replace your missing tooth, but it will also prevent the damage or decay of neighbouring teeth.
Why do I need a dental bridge?
There are several reasons why you may need a dental bridge, these include:
- To replace missing teeth
- To prevent teeth that neighbour the gap from shifting
- To prevent tooth decay or gum disease in the areas surrounding the gap
- To improve the natural appearance of your smile.
Is eating with a dental bridge difficult?
Once you’ve had dental bridges fitted, eating should become easier. Initially, you may experience some soreness and sensitivity, however, this should pass relatively quickly.
Immediately after having your dental bridge procedure, you should avoid hard foods that require too much chewing. Drinks that are too hot or too cold should also be avoided.
Once you’ve become accustomed to your dental bridges, you will be able to return to your normal diet.
Although your bite will return to full strength, there are certain foods that you may find troublesome. These include nuts and popcorn which may get trapped beneath your pontic and chewy sweets that could damage your crowns.
Does having a dental bridge affect your speech?
When you have missing teeth, speaking clearly can be a challenge. Once you’ve had a dental bridge fitted and all of your anterior teeth are in their correct position, you shouldn’t have any issues with your speech.
What questions should you ask your dentist about dental bridges?
Having questions and fears about any dental procedure is normal. One of the most important things to get advice on is how to clean and care for your bridge.
Proper cleaning will not only maximise the lifespan of your dental bridge but will help minimise the risk of bad breath and gum disease caused by trapped food under your pontic.
Is getting a dental bridge painful?
One of the things that many patients will be apprehensive of, particularly if they have dental phobia, is how painful the procedure is.
The procedure for having dental bridges placed is relatively straightforward and pain-free. Your dentist will initially provide you with a local anaesthetic to numb the area of the mouth where the bridge is being placed.
Following your procedure, you may experience some soreness, however, this can be managed easily with pain medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
If you are worried or anxious about your treatment, find a dentist that is dental phobia certified. Dentists that have undertaken this certification will be experienced in treating nervous patients. In addition to this, they will take the time to understand your fears and talk you through the procedure and can also provide you with sedation to help you feel at ease.
To find a dental phobia certified dentist in your area, search here.
Are there any associated risks or complications when getting a dental bridge?
Provided you care for your bridge and follow any cleaning advice from your dentist or hygienist, it should last for many years. If there is decay in the abutment teeth or deterioration of the cement holding the pontic in position, the bridge may fail.
If your bridge does come loose, as long as the supporting teeth are still intact and healthy, your dentist may be able to cement it back into position.
Are you a suitable candidate for dental bridges?
While you may have one or more missing teeth, it doesn’t necessarily mean dental bridges are your best option.
Ultimately, it will be for your dentist to decide whether you’re a suitable candidate for dental bridges. As long as your oral and general health is good and you have the necessary strength in your bone structure required to support the bridge, your dentist will typically approve the procedure.