Fixed Partial Bridges
Most people place more significance on replacing missing front teeth that can obviously improve the appearance of the smile; however, most people fail to consider what happens when missing posterior teeth are not replaced. Each time you lose a tooth, you lose approximately 10% of your ability to chew. When a tooth is lost, the other teeth surrounding the site of the now missing tooth tend to move into the empty space. This contributes to an increased opportunity for decay and gum disease to begin, along with bite problems and a potential for other dental problems. Replacing molars will help regain normal chewing, swallowing, and digestion. Missing teeth should always be replaced; the sooner, the better.
Fixed bridges are one of the possibilities that exist for the replacement of one or more missing teeth. Bridges are crowns that are attached or fused together, suspending the crown portion of a false tooth in or over the space left by the missing tooth. A bridge can be used to replace one or several teeth. Sometimes a bridge is used to splint loose teeth together in order to make the teeth more stable. The bridge is typically attached to the teeth on either side of the site of the missing tooth. The teeth are generally the same shape as natural teeth. However, if the existing teeth (abutments) that are used to anchor the bridge have moved from their original position because a tooth or teeth have been missing for years, the added tooth (pontic) may be longer or shorter than the tooth that it is replacing. With a bridge, the false tooth will most often fit flush against the soft tissue ridge where the missing tooth once existed.
What to Expect
The shape of the tongue side of the false tooth varies. It is usually smaller on the tongue side and completely fills the space. Food will have more of a tendency to collect in this area, so you must be prepared to clean it. If the missing tooth has been gone a long time, the ridge may have shrunk considerably, and the pontic tooth will be longer than the teeth on either side. If this is the case, there are several periodontal procedures that can be done prior to the construction of the bridge. These procedures will build up the tissue to its former height. The more your mouth has changed from its normal state, the harder it is to make new teeth look and feel natural.
One or more teeth can be replaced by a fixed bridge. The design of the bridge is affected by, among other factors, the number, strength, and position of the remaining teeth, and your ability to properly clean the completed bridge.
The teeth that are to be the supports for the bridge are prepared similarly to the preparation of a single crown. The tooth is made smaller by about 1 to 2 millimeters, depending on the part of the tooth being prepared. An impression is made of the prepared teeth and sent to a lab. While the bridge is being made, the prepared teeth are protected by a well-designed temporary bridge. Once the final bridge has been placed, it is not easily removed.
You practice meticulous home care, especially around the bridge. We will show you how to properly brush and floss. It is important that you follow our recommended dental hygiene recare schedule. Frequent examinations are one way to protect your investment and to maintain optimal oral health. The bridge teeth can be brushed the same as natural teeth, but since they are attached together, must be flossed differently by using a floss threader or other device.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Advantages of the fixed bridge include proven reliability and longevity.
Disadvantages include cost, increased difficulty in proper cleaning by the patient, and the necessity of preparing healthy adjacent teeth for support.