A tooth extraction can leave you feeling like something is missing. Some people find that food gets caught in the space where the tooth was or that the lack of a tooth makes chewing more difficult (especially if they have other missing teeth or a misaligned bite). Others may have concerns about how it affects their smile or appearance. Nearby teeth could shift, causing difficulty with your bite and chewing, and some people have difficulty with speech. If you would like to do something about a missing tooth, you may be wondering if a bridge or another option is right for you.
What is a Dental Bridge, and How Does It Work?
Dental bridges are false or replacement teeth placed in a gap between two natural teeth. There are two types of bridges:
- Removable. These attach to a hinge placed on a nearby tooth and act as a partial denture. You can take them out for cleaning or if they cause you any discomfort, but many people dislike removable bridges. Some may find that removing the tooth to clean it is a hassle, while others have difficulty with the fit or notice that the bridge moves. It’s also possible to misplace a bridge due to its small size.
- Permanent. These bridges are cemented to the adjoining teeth and can only be removed by your dentist. Most people prefer this option because their dental care routine can stay the same – they don’t need to remove the tooth for cleaning, but can instead brush and floss around it. Permanent bridges can be made out of several different materials, including resin and various metals or amalgams, but we typically use porcelain-fused-to-metal in an appropriate shade to match your other teeth.
Are Dental Bridges Always the Best Option?
Dental bridges aren’t ideal for every situation. If you’ve lost several teeth in one area, there may not be sufficient teeth for anchoring a bridge. In this case, a partial or full denture may be an option. You might also consider dental implants if you don’t want a removable denture.
Bridges usually aren’t recommended after the removal of a molar at the very back of the mouth, since there is only one tooth to use as an anchor and the gap isn’t very visible. But if you have lost other teeth in the area, this empty space could affect your bite. Again, a dental implant might be a better solution if this is the case.
Dental implants can also be helpful for people who find that a bridge doesn’t fit well or slips when chewing. However, not everyone is a good candidate for implants. The process takes several months of appointments and requires implanting a titanium rod in the jaw. It’s supposed to fuse with the jawbone, but in a few cases, this doesn’t happen, so people with bone or jaw diseases usually aren’t advised to get dental implants. There is also a higher chance of the procedure failing if you smoke. Additionally, some people simply don’t want to take the time to go through multiple procedures.
For any of these reasons, a dental bridge may prove to be the better solution for you. At Great Care Family Dentistry, we will go over all your options and answer any questions so that you can make an informed decision.
How Does the Process Work, and Can You Get a Temporary Dental Bridge?
Once we’ve determined that a dental bridge is the right choice for you, we’ll start by working on the abutment teeth, or the teeth that will support the bridge. If they don’t already have crowns, we’ll begin the process of placing crowns on them. First, we’ll drill down the teeth so there will be ample space for the crowns, then we’ll make a mold of the teeth for our dental lab to use. Before you leave, we’ll fix temporary crowns for the teeth and a temporary bridge, so the space will look better while your permanent pieces are in the works.
We’ll schedule an appointment for you to come back when these are ready, typically after a few weeks. In the meantime, chew carefully around the temporary pieces.
At your next appointment, we’ll remove the temporary bridge and crowns and cement the permanent ones into place. In some cases, we may use temporary cement until we’re sure the bridge fits you comfortably, and cement it later when that’s the case. Either way, we’ll check on the fit and how it’s affecting your bite. Sometimes patients can tell their bite is off in the office, and we’ll go ahead and adjust the bridge or one of the crowns – wherever the problem is. For certain patients, it may take time to get used to their new bridge and how it feels when chewing, so if you need to come back and have the bridge adjusted a few more times, that’s absolutely fine. Bridges should help make it easier for you to chew, not vice versa, and your comfort is our top priority.
How Long Will a Dental Bridge Be Good For?
This depends on your efforts to care for it, but many bridges last 15 years or more before they need to be replaced. You should brush twice daily and floss at least once a day, being sure to clean the space between the bridge and gums to prevent food debris and plaque from collecting there. To reach this area, you can use floss threaders, interproximal brushes, or dental picks – our oral hygienist can show you how to use these and may even have some samples. Additionally, continue to have a cleaning and dental exam twice a year to reduce the risk of tooth decay around your bridge.
Whitening toothpaste can be hard on a bridge and may even cause damage, so we don’t recommend using these. If you have cosmetic concerns or are interested in whitening your teeth, please let us know. Our in-house whitening services are done in a professional setting where we can isolate some of the teeth if needed, but that could make them whiter than the bridge and crowns. Or, we can do whitening treatments before we begin the bridge process and match your bridge and crowns to the new color of your teeth.
Will Your Insurance Cover a Dental Bridge for Front Teeth?
Most insurance policies will cover some of the cost of a dental bridge, but there will be a copay. In some cases, insurance companies are more inclined to cover bridges for front teeth as spaces there can cause difficulty with speech.
Frequently dental policies have a yearly limit of only $1,000 – 2,000, and a bridge plus two crowns can quickly deplete that. When you have questions about treatment costs, we encourage you to speak with our administrative staff, who can seek a predetermination showing your estimated portion from your insurance company.
Contact a Gwinnett County Dentist for More Information About Dental Bridges
Many patients aren’t sure if a bridge is right for them. The best way to explore all your options for addressing a missing tooth is to make an appointment with an experienced dentist at Great Care Family Dentistry. We’ll examine your teeth, review your history, and learn about your goals for treatment. Then we’ll explain your options so you can make an informed decision.