Fixed Partial Dentures (Bridges)
Bridges are sometimes referred to as fixed partial dentures, because they are semi-permanent, being fastened to existing teeth or implants in some fashion. There are several types of bridges, including conventional, cantilever, and resin-bonded. Unless your bridge is designed to be screw retained on implants, they are not meant to be removed once placed. That doesn’t mean they can’t be or that they don’t ever come off, they just are not meant to. There are a variety of reasons why a bridge might come off. If you ever have one that does, see your dentist, it might just need to be cleaned up and recemented.
Bridges are natural-looking dental appliances that can replace a single tooth or several in a row. Each tooth that supports a bridge gets reduced in size with the abutment crowns (caps) being custom made to restore the tooth back to its original or perhaps improved contours. As such they are barely noticeable and can restore the proper bite relationship between upper and lower teeth as well. Bridges in the mouth are similar to one over a river. A conventional bridge has an abutment on each side holding up the bridge span. In the mouth that means one or more abutment crowns on each end holding up one or more pontics, the missing tooth. How many teeth are missing and what teeth are the abutments determine how long a bridge is (how many teeth). Depending on which missing tooth is being replaced, a cantilever bridge may be an option. It is more like a drawbridge, being heavily anchored on one side only. If the missing tooth being replaced isn’t subjected to a lot of stress, perhaps a resin bonded Maryland Bridge can be done. Here, the pontic (replacement tooth) has just a wing on each side of it instead of a full crown, which are bonded onto the back side of the adjacent teeth.
Teeth replaced with a bridge are a much more natural replacement than those replaced with a removable partial, but they do have their own downside. Even the shortest of bridges will be more expensive than a partial. In a bridge, you pay by the tooth, whether it is a retainer crown (abutment) or the missing tooth (pontic), you will pay for each tooth. In the conventional bridge where one tooth is replaced that means three crowns, two serving as abutments and one missing, the replacement pontic. While even this smallest bridge is over one and a half times the expense of a partial, it is well worth it not to have the entire framework of the partial for only one missing tooth. Bridges also have their own problems when it comes to keeping them clean. Because each tooth of the bridge is joined to another, you cannot floss a bridge like you can natural teeth. As a result, you may develop recurrent caries (decay) in between teeth or maybe a gum problem. Learn how to use floss threaders or a WaterPik so you don’t have to pay to have a replacement bridge made and be sure to keep regular recare appointments with our office. Another downside to a bridge involves the teeth on either side of the missing tooth. Since crowns are made my grinding down a tooth to allow for the crown to then fit over it, what do you do if those teeth are perfectly good teeth, no decay, no fillings? Do you grind them down just to have a replacement tooth placed? A better option for a bridge exists in the form of an implant. For more on implants, click here.