When you lose one or more teeth, one of the first pieces of advice you’ll get from your dentist is to choose a tooth replacement option. A gap in your smile can leave you feeling self-conscious, so filling that gap to reclaim a full, naturally beautiful smile can sound like an appealing next step for many people for that reason alone. There are many other good reasons to consider a tooth replacement option, though, including restoring the function of your missing tooth and protecting the health of your remaining natural teeth.
A dental bridge is one of the main tooth replacement options your dentist may recommend or that you may discover during your research on the internet. Despite this, you may wonder why you need one or what the benefits of dental bridges really are. We understand that it’s important to fully understand your treatment options before you commit to them, so we’ve put together a guide on dental bridges, including what they are and how they could help you.
Losing one or more teeth has several consequences, including often changing the appearance of your smile and making it more difficult to bite into or chew food, depending on where the tooth was located. It has several other consequences, however, that you might not be as familiar with—including changing the placement of your remaining teeth in your mouth.
While we often think of teeth as rooted in place, unmoving unless we encourage them to move through orthodontic treatments, that’s not always the case. When you lose one or more teeth, your remaining teeth begin to shift into the gap they left behind. This can further impact the appearance of your smile as well as its function, leading to several potential complications.
Another consequence of losing one or more teeth is bone loss in your jaw. This happens over time because your tooth roots actually play an essential role in jaw bone health, stimulating the bone as you chew to let your body know to continue sending nutrients to it. Without that stimulation, your body begins to reabsorb the bone around the missing tooth root.
When your teeth begin shifting into the new gap in your smile, they end up with more space between each other. This makes it more difficult to clean them thoroughly, which increases your likelihood of developing cavities or gum disease.
Shifting teeth can cause several larger issues, though, because it changes the way your teeth fit together. In other words, it changes your bite. Over time, this can lead to a malocclusion, also called a misaligned bite.
Malocclusions can lead to a range of symptoms, including frequent headaches or earaches and difficulty biting into or chewing food. The issues it can cause with chewing can result in uneven wear on your teeth, with some of your teeth becoming more worn down than the rest over time. This uneven wear further impacts how you chew, and worn teeth have less protective enamel on them, which can cause tooth sensitivity and make them more vulnerable to decay.
Malocclusions can also put an extra strain on the joints or muscles in your jaw, potentially causing jaw pain or leading to the development of temporomandibular joint disorder, also known as TMD.
A dental bridge is a dental restoration that’s designed to replace one or more missing teeth, restoring the function and appearance of your teeth while protecting your oral health by preventing your teeth from shifting. Generally, a dental bridge consists of a false tooth, also known as a pontic, that is attached to and supported by one or more of your remaining healthy teeth. The way the bridge is secured in place varies based on the type of bridge and the health of your nearby teeth.
There are three main types of dental bridges. The most common type is called a traditional fixed bridge. It consists of a pontic suspended between two dental crowns, which are each placed on a healthy tooth on either side of the gap. Placing the crowns on these teeth secures the new tooth in place in the gap.
The second type of bridge is called a cantilever bridge. It looks much like a traditional fixed bridge, but there’s only a single crown to support the prosthetic tooth on just one side. This type of bridge is used when you only have healthy natural teeth on one side of the gap in your smile or when the missing tooth is your last molar.
The third type of dental bridge is called a Maryland bonded bridge and is most often used to replace missing front teeth. Instead of using a crown to attach the pontic to nearby teeth, Maryland-bonded bridges use metal or porcelain wings. These wings are attached to the backs of the teeth next to the gap in your smile, making them invisible from the front.
This also means that this type of bridge requires less dental work to be done to otherwise healthy teeth, as the attachment of the wings doesn’t require your dentist to remove enamel from the support teeth. Despite this, they’re not used as often—especially not toward the back of the mouth—because they don’t provide as much strength as traditional or cantilever bridges.
A dental bridge has an incredibly simple way of stopping your teeth from shifting—it fills the space, just like your natural tooth did. That’s it! Without the gap, there’s nowhere for your remaining teeth to drift into, so they maintain their position in your jaw. This keeps your smile looking beautiful and ensures that it remains easy to brush and floss your teeth thoroughly, keeping your oral health in great shape. The only consequence of losing a tooth that bridges can’t protect against is bone loss in your jaw. Only dental implants can prevent this bone loss.
As vital as it is to prevent your teeth from shifting into the gap in your smile, the benefits of dental bridges extend far beyond that task. By filling the gap in your smile, dental bridges also restore the function of your missing tooth. The support of healthy natural teeth gives your bridge the stability and strength it needs to allow you to eat normally again.
Restoring the appearance of your smile is another benefit, and it can’t be understated. A missing tooth can be quite visible in your smile or even simply when you laugh, which can make you self-conscious about smiling or laughing in public. Thankfully, bridges are designed to blend in with your natural smile.
The gap between your gums and the pontic is so small that people won’t notice it when you smile, and bridges are completely customizable. You’ll work with Dr. Sadeghi to choose the size, shape, and shade of your new tooth. You can choose to model your new tooth after the one you lost or make improvements to its appearance. Either way, you’ll get a restoration that is unique to you.
Put together, these factors mean that people won’t even realize you have a bridge—it will simply look like a naturally beautiful part of your smile. This can work wonders for your self-confidence, helping you to reclaim it so that you can fully enjoy smiling and laughing in public again.
When you lose a tooth, a dental bridge can be an essential step in reclaiming and protecting the health, function, and beauty of your smile. If you’d like to learn more about dental bridges and whether they’re right for you from the best dentist near Reading, MA, feel free to schedule a consultation with Dr. Sadeghi at any time.