What is a bridge?
A bridge is a dental appliance that replaces one or more
natural missing teeth, thereby "bridging" the space
between two teeth. Fixed bridges are cemented into place next to
the "abutment" teeth--the surrounding teeth on either
side of the space, or "span." Unlike removable partial
dentures, fixed bridges cannot be taken out of the mouth by the
A fixed bridge is a device that typically consists of three
units--a pontic (a false tooth) fused between two crowns that
are cemented onto the abutment teeth.
Who should get a bridge?
If you are missing any teeth and are committed to maintaining
good oral hygiene practices, you may be a good candidate for a
bridge. A bridge is the most natural choice 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 and gums to become more susceptible to tooth decay
and gum disease that can cause further tooth loss.
| correct an altered bite|
|improve your chewing ability
| safeguard your appearance |
|prevent the collapse of your facial features that can cause
premature wrinkles and age lines|
What type of bridges are there?
| Besides traditional bridges, another popular design is the
resin bonded or "Maryland" bridge, primarily used for
the front teeth. This is usually the most economical choice when
the abutment teeth are healthy and don't contain large fillings.
The pontic is fused to metal bands that can be bonded to the
abutment teeth with a resin cement and hidden from view,
reducing the amount of preparation on the adjacent teeth.|
|A cantilever bridge may be used if there are teeth on only
one side of the span. This involves anchoring the pontic to one
side over one or more natural, adjacent teeth. |
| If there are no
adjacent teeth to act as anchors, your dentist may recommend an
implant--a metal post that is surgically imbedded into the bone
and capped with a crown as an abutment. |
| In some cases where the
span is large, your dentist may recommend a removable partial
denture or even an implant-supported prosthesis.|
What procedures are involved?
- For a traditional fixed bridge, the first appointment
consists of the dentist reducing the adjacent abutment teeth
that will act as anchors. Impressions are made, from which a
metal framework, including the pontic, is created.
- By the second
appointment, the final bridge is fitted over the teeth.
The total treatment time is usually between two or four
weeks, depending on the type of bridge. However, because it is
often difficult to match the natural shade of your teeth, the
treatment time may be longer.
How do I care for a bridge?
With a bridge, it is more important than ever to brush, floss
and see your dentist regularly. If you do not control the
buildup of food debris and plaque--the sticky film of bacteria
formed from food acids--your teeth and gums can become infected,
requiring further treatment and resulting in possible loss of
Your dentist may also recommend using floss
threaders that help remove bacteria from hard to reach spaces
between the bridge and adjacent teeth and gums.
If you maintain optimal oral hygiene care, you can expect
your fixed bridge to last as many as 8-10 years, or even longer.
Robert Margolin, DDS, FAGD;
"An Update on Conventional Fixed Bridges Part 1: Patient
Assessment and Selection," by D.L. Gutteridge, et al.,
Dental Update, April 1994;
Inlays, Crowns and Bridges, by Leslie C. Howe, et. al.,
Butterworth-Heinemaann Ltd., 1993;
"Crown and Bridge Procedures: Success Begins with Home
Care," GP, Dec. 1992;
Change Your Smile, by Ronald E. Goldstein, DDS,
Quintessence Publishing Co., Inc., 1988;
"Fixed Bridges and Crowns," American Dental