Missing teeth can cause a multitude of problems aside from making you self-conscious about smiling, from difficulty speaking normally to difficulty eating and poor nutrition. Fortunately, the world of dentistry now has several excellent methods available for replacing lost teeth. One of the simplest and tried and true reliable ones is the dental bridge. Dr. J. Stephen Hoard, a skilled and professional dentist in New Bern, NC, wants to take a few minutes of your time to explain the benefits of bridges for restoring a healthy smile.
What is a Dental Bridge?
A bridge is a prosthesis — an artificial replacement part — that replaces a missing tooth and is supported by the surrounding healthy teeth on either side. In dental terms, the artificial replacement tooth is known as a “pontic” (from the French word “pont” meaning bridge) while the healthy adjacent teeth that hold the pontic up on either side are called the abutments. The completed prosthesis spans the gap in your teeth just like a bridge crossing over a canyon.
The teeth that will serve as the abutment must be prepared to support the pont by being crowned or “capped.” This is done in much the same way as if these teeth needed crowns due to tooth decay or damage.
First, their enamel is removed to allow for enough space for the crown to fit over them and completely cover them while still appearing lifelike. The crowns on the abutment teeth will be attached to and support the false tooth (pontic) in between. The pontic is really just another crown but without a natural tooth living underneath.
Building a Bridge
As mentioned above, if you have one missing tooth, your bridge will need three crowns: two to cap the abutment teeth on either side and one for the pontic in between. This arrangement is known as a three-unit bridge and is probably the most commonly performed.
However, if more than one tooth is missing, more crowns and more abutment teeth will be needed to form the bridge. Your dentist must consider several variables to calculate how many abutment teeth will be needed: the number of teeth missing, the size, length and stability of the abutment tooth roots, and the location in the mouth from which the teeth were lost.
So if you are missing three teeth in a row, four abutment teeth may need to be prepared and harnessed, thereby creating a seven-tooth bridge. Engineering and designing the bridge requires Dr. Hoard to understand the biology of the tooth-supporting gum and bone tissue as well as how to replace teeth.
What to Expect
Getting bridgework most often requires two separate visits to the dentist’s office. At your first visit, you will be given a local anesthetic and your abutment teeth will be prepared as described above. Molds of your prepped teeth will be taken to prepare three-dimensional models of your teeth, used for constructing the crowns. A temporary bridge will be put in place before the visit is completed.
Once your permanent bridge is ready, it will be permanently placed place during the second appointment. It will take some time for you to become accustomed to the feel of the new bridge against your tongue, lips, and cheeks, but eventually it will feel no different to you than your own natural teeth.
Caring for your Bridge
Crowned teeth require the same routine care as your other teeth, including brushing twice daily and flossing every day to reduce plaque buildup. Flossing around a bridge can be trickier but is still important. It is very important to schedule regular cleanings with your dental provider if you have a bridge because with proper care, a bridge can last a very long time.
Dental Bridges in New Bern, NC
If you are in the New Bern, NC area and would like to discuss tooth replacement options with Dr. Hoard or even just have a routine teeth cleaning by one of his skilled dental hygienists, call 252.507.0373 or schedule online with our office today.