In addition to being harmful to your self-esteem, missing teeth can cause a variety of problems in your life, from difficulty speaking normally to difficulty eating and poor nutrition. Fortunately, modern dentistry now has several excellent methods of tooth replacement available to dental patients. One of the most simple and reliable methods available is also one of the oldest and most performed: the dental bridge. Dr. Leonard Hess, a skilled and respected dentist of Charlotte, NC wants to take a moment to explain the benefits of bridges for restoring a healthy smile.
What are Dental Bridges?
A bridge is a kind of prosthesis — an artificial replacement part — that fills the gap left by a missing tooth and is supported by the surrounding healthy teeth. In dental terminology, the artificial replacement tooth is called a “pontic” (from the French word “pont” meaning bridge). The neighboring healthy teeth — called abutments — support the pontic from either side. The completed prosthesis spans the gap in your teeth just like a bridge over a canyon.
The teeth that will become the abutments must be prepared to support the pont by being crowned or “capped.” This procedure is performed in the same manner as if the teeth needed crowns due to tooth decay or damage.
The outer layer of enamel on the abutment teeth is stripped so that the crown completely covers them while still looking lifelike and preserving the appearance of your mouth. Three connected crowns will be placed to replace one missing tooth, one on either side of the gap in your smile (the abutments) with a pontic in the empty space between.
Building a Bridge
As detailed above, if you are missing one tooth, your bridge will need three crowns: two to cover the abutment teeth on either side of the gap left by the missing tooth and one in between. This configuration is known as a three-unit bridge.
If several teeth are missing, more crowns and more abutment teeth will be required to support the bridge. Your dentist calculates this number by considering how many teeth are missing, the size, length and stability of the abutment tooth roots, and the location in the mouth where the bridge is being placed.
Therefore, if you are missing three teeth, four abutment teeth may be necessary, thereby creating a seven-tooth bridge. Engineering and designing the bridge requires Dr. Hess to have an understanding of the biology of the tooth-supporting gum and bone tissue as well as how to replace teeth.
What to Expect
Dental bridges can be completely installed in just two visits to Dr.Hess’s office. Local anesthetic will be administered and your abutment teeth will have their enamel prepared for crowns to be placed. Molds of the abutment teeth will be made to allow for the creation of three-dimensional computer models that will be used to create the crowns. During this first visit, a temporary bridge will be installed so that you will still be able to eat and speak as you’re accustomed to until your permanent bridge is constructed.
Once your permanent bridge is ready, you will need to return for a second visit to have it permanently placed. It will take some time for you to become accustomed to the feel of the new bridge against your tongue, lips, and cheeks, but will eventually come to accept it as part of your own teeth.
Caring for your Bridge
Crowned teeth need the same routine care as your other teeth. Be sure to brush twice daily and floss every day to control the build-up of dental plaque. It is even more important for you to schedule routine cleanings with your dental office if you have a bridge. A dental bridge that is properly cared for can last for a long time.
Dental Bridges in Charlotte, NC
If you are in the Charlotte, NC area and would like to discuss tooth replacement options with Dr. Hess or even just have a routine teeth cleaning, call 704.240.5045 or schedule online with us today.