A Guide to Dental Bridges

It isn’t unusual to lose a tooth. Of course, it can make you feel as though you stand out like a sore thumb when you smile. But in many cases, a missing tooth can easily and subtly replaced with a dental bridge, so that most people will not even know the difference.

If you are missing a tooth, it is important that you get it replaced and the implications are not just aesthetic. As well as affecting how your smile looks, a missing tooth can put strain on the other teeth as your chewing action changes and the extra space can also encourage your remaining teeth to grow crookedly. Obviously, this will exacerbate the strain on those teeth and cause more problems in the longer term. A missing tooth can also affect your speech.

A dental bridge is essentially just a false tooth to replace a missing one. The reason it is called a bridge is because it is anchored in place against two crowns on either side. These crowns then attach to the existing teeth (or implants, if required), so a bridge is formed. It should function just as well as your natural teeth.

As well as enhancing your facial shape and smile aesthetics, your dental bridge will also have implications for your oral health. If you do not replace missing teeth, food can gather in the gap and attract the bacteria that cause halitosis and tooth decay. By filling in the gap, your teeth become easier to clean.

One of the challenges with fitting a bridge is that each person is different and we all have a unique smile. Therefore, your dentist will take a mould of your teeth so that a made-to-measure bridge can be created in a laboratory. Your dentist will also colour-match your teeth so that the newly created bridge will match perfectly to your existing, natural teeth.

Of course, a missing tooth is not just a missing tooth either. A front tooth is different to a back tooth. An upper tooth different to a lower tooth. And what if there are no teeth on either for the bridge to connect to? Your bridge can be constructed in different ways to suit where it is in your mouth and how it needs to be held in place. Apart from the conventional type of bridge described above, there are also cantilever bridges that connect only to teeth on one side. Alternatively, if the bridge is fitted to the front teeth, your dentist may choose a resin-bonded bridge – rather than attaching to two crowns, the central false tooth is bonded directly to the back of the neighbouring teeth.

Your dentist will fit a temporary bridge until your made-to-measure version has been prepared. It is important that your dental bridge fits perfectly (otherwise it will never feel quite right or comfortable), so once it is cemented in place your dentist may recommend another appointment, just in case you need your further adjustments to your bridge. Once you start eating, talking and smiling with your new bridge in place, you will soon realise whether it needs to be moved slightly.

Your new bridge will probably be made of porcelain as this is the most natural – yet also durable – material and it should last 10-15 years as long as you look after it properly. You should clean your dental bridge twice every day, just as you would your normal teeth. This will ensure that food debris is removed and will stop bacteria from building up around it. Flossing will help too and is recommended by dentists. Your dentist will be able to demonstrate to you how best to clean and look after your dental bridge.

Don’t forget, too, that you bridge is only as strong as the teeth around it. So it is important that you keep your natural teeth in good condition too. Although your dental bridge should feel comfortable and natural, it can take some people a short while to get used to it. So in the early days, your dentist may advise that you restrict your diet slightly and avoid foods that are particularly hard or tough to chew.