A dental bridge is an appliance used to replace one or more missing teeth. These appliances are cemented into place and cannot be removed by the patient.
As the name of this appliance implies, the bridge is made out of three (or more) pieces that fit into the open space in the mouth, "bridging" the gap. Most bridges are made of a pontic tooth or teeth (or false tooth/teeth), held together by two crowns (a "cap" that covers the tooth, approximating its normal size and shape). This trio is then attached (cemented) to the abutment teeth (the surrounding support teeth on each side of the gap).
Many people who have one or more missing teeth are candidates for a dental bridge. The teeth that will support the bridge must be in good periodontal health and have good bone support. However, the difference between proper and improper oral hygiene is an important factor in the success of the dental bridge.
There are several different types of dental bridges. Your dentist or oral health specialist will recommend the most appropriate one for your mouth condition and the location of the missing tooth or teeth.
Traditional bridge - as described above, this bridge consists of a pontic (false) tooth held together by two crowns. The trio is cemented to the surrounding teeth on each side of the gap.
Resin-bonded bridge (also known as a Maryland bridge) - this type of bridge involves fusing the pontic (false) teeth to metal bands that are bonded to the back of the abutment teeth with a resin cement. This type of procedure is common when the teeth missing are in the front of the mouth. While they are a conservative approach, they have a higher failure rate than traditional bridges.
Cantilever bridge - this type of procedure is most appropriate when there is only one abutment tooth on either side of the span.
The following recommendations will help to eliminate, or reduce, any oral health problems while your teeth are bonded by a bridge:
Brush your teeth carefully after every meal with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush, as food may become lodged, causing the gums and teeth to become infected. This may lead to further complications resulting in the loss of the bridge.
Floss daily. Your dentist, or other oral health specialist, may recommend using a floss threader to carry floss under the pontic (false) tooth so that it and the abutment teeth can be cleaned.
Have your teeth cleaned every six months by an oral health professional.
Limit your sugar and starch intake, as debris left behind from these types of foods may turn into damaging acids, which can cause cavities.
Avoid hard and/or sticky snacks. This includes foods such as popcorn, hard or chew candy, caramel, and/or nuts.
Most bridges last more than 10 years with proper oral hygiene.