What is a dental or “fixed” bridge?
A dental or “fixed” bridge is a permanent restoration used to fill a space caused by the loss of one or more teeth. The space must have at least one strong tooth on each side of it to serve as an “abutment”, just like the bridge across a river needs an abutment on each side. The tooth on each side of the space is prepared by the dentist just like a crown is prepared. A restoration is then made that fits over the two prepared teeth. Suspended between these two crowns are one or more porcelain replicas of the tooth/teeth that once filled that space.. These replicas of teeth are called “pontics”. The two crowns holding the pontic(s) in place are cemented onto the teeth on each side of the space. This is known as a “fixed” bridge. Fixed bridges cannot be taken out of your mouth as dentures can be. Bridges can reduce your risk of gum disease, help correct some bite issues, and even improve your speech. Bridges require a commitment to consistent oral hygiene and can last as long as ten years or more when properly made and maintained.
Is it possible to have a porcelain bridge affixed to your teeth without having any clasps or metal appearing?
Yes. If you are an appropriate candidate, a porcelain bridge can look as natural as (or even better in some cases) than your own teeth. In many cases you can improve color shape, proportion, and alignment. There is no need for any clasps or metal to be showing. Some bridges are designed with a metal support structure or a metal lining covered with porcelain (porcelain-fused-to-metal or PFM). At one point in time, most restorations were made this way. If not well done these PFM bridges can often look opaque or "flat" because they do not let light pass through like a natural tooth. Also, if not done properly the metal can show at the gum line and influence the color of the tooth. All this can be avoided if the lab and dentist are experienced in cosmetic dentistry.
Nowadays, all-porcelain bridge restorations are what we chose to use unless there is a compelling reason otherwise. Again, when properly placed, they are virtually as strong as or stronger than their metal predecessor. Their appearance can be identical to a natural tooth, allowing light to pass through (referred to as translucency).
Who is a candidate for a porcelain dental bridge?
If you have one or more missing teeth, have strong teeth on each side of the space and have good oral hygiene practices, you should discuss this procedure with Dr. Bartolome and Dr. Swearingen. If spaces are left unfilled, they may cause the surrounding teeth to drift out of position. Additionally, spaces from missing teeth can cause your other teeth and gums to become far more susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease.
How is a dental bridge placed in my mouth?
We prepare your teeth on either side of the space for the bridge. You will be given a mild anesthetic to numb the area, and then Dr. Swearingen will remove some tooth structure from each abutment (teeth on either side of the space) to accommodate for the thickness of the crown. When these teeth already have fillings, the filling will be removed unless Dr. Swearingen is sure there is no decay under it (i.e., a filling recently placed by him). We will then make an impression, which will provide the model from which the bridge, false tooth, and crowns will be made by the lab. A temporary bridge will be placed for you to wear while your bridge is being made. This temporary bridge will serve to protect your teeth and gums and preserve your bite relationship to the opposing teeth.
On your second appointment, the temporary bridge will be removed. Your new permanent bridge will be fitted, checked, and adjusted for any bite discrepancies. Your new bridge will then be cemented to your teeth.
If you would like to learn more about porcelain bridges, please contact the office of Dr. Michelle Bartolome and Dr. William Swearingen, Sacramento cosmetic dentist, today to schedule your initial consultation.
Cosmetic and General Dentistry