A bridge is a dental appliance that replaces one or more missing teeth, thereby "bridging" the space between existing teeth. Fixed bridges are cemented into place over anchor (abutment) teeth; the teeth on either side of the space where a tooth is missing. A false tooth (or teeth), called a pontic, is suspended between the anchor teeth to fill in the space. Unlike removable partial dentures, fixed bridges cannot be taken out of the mouth by the patient.
If you are missing any teeth and are committed to maintaining good oral health, you may be a good candidate for a bridge. A bridge is one of the most natural choices to fill the space in your mouth left by missing teeth. If left unfilled, this space can cause the surrounding teeth to drift out of position and can cause teeth to become more susceptible to tooth decay or fracture. Shifting teeth can also lead to gum disease and further tooth loss. Fixed bridges not only stabilize your arch to prevent drifting, but also correct an altered bite and improve your chewing ability and speech. Bridges also safeguard your appearance by preventing the collapse of your facial features that can cause premature wrinkles and age lines.
For a traditional fixed bridge, the first appointment consists of Dr. Mahlin reshaping the support teeth that will act as anchors. Impressions are made, from which the bridge is created. On a second or third appointment, the bridge is fitted over the teeth and secured in place by dental cements. The total treatment time is usually between three to four weeks, depending on the type of bridge and the complexity of the case.
Alternatives for replacing missing teeth other than bridges include implants and removable partial dentures. If there are not enough neighboring teeth to act as anchors, or if the neighboring teeth would make poor anchors, Dr. Mahlin may recommend an implant. An implant is an artificial tooth root made of titanium and ceramic material, which is placed in the jaw. The implant can then serve as support for a crown or a denture. A removable partial denture consists of a metal framework into which denture teeth are set. The partial denture fits over or around your natural teeth. A partial denture can and should be removed by the patient to properly clean the appliance and the natural teeth.
If you have any questions about replacing missing teeth, Dr. Mahlin would be happy to discuss them with you.