A dental bridge or partial fixed denture is a device which consists of an artificial tooth or pontic with a crown on either side which sit on top of your natural teeth.
The pontic fills the gap left by your missing tooth: the two crowns are fixed via metal bands to the teeth either side of the gap and are held in place with resin or dental cement. In other words, it bridges the gap between your teeth.
Bridges are produced from metal, porcelain or ceramic. They are fixed in place with dental cement or resin which ensures that the bridge sits firmly in position. The bridge cannot be taken out for cleaning so this has to be performed whilst the bridge is fixed in place.
Your dentist will advise you about the best way of doing this.
Types of dental bridge
There are three types of dental bridge which include:
- Fixed bridge
- Resin or composite bonded bridge
- Cantilever bridge
The fixed bridge is the most popular type of bridge.
It consists of a pontic which is flanked on either side by a crown. The pontic is produced from porcelain or ceramic which is a hard wearing, durable material. The crowns are usually made from porcelain.
Resin/composite bonded bridge
This type of bridge is simpler than the fixed version. It consists of an artificial tooth made from plastic which fills the gap left by a missing tooth. This tooth is fixed in place with metal bonds which are attached to the surrounding teeth with resin.
This is popular with people who have lost a front tooth as it places minimal load on the remaining teeth.
This is also used in cases where someone has lost a front tooth or teeth. It is fixed to the natural teeth on the one side of the gap left by a lost tooth. It also places only a small amount of stress on the front teeth.
Dental bridge procedure
A bridge takes at least two visits to be fabricated and then fitted. The first visit involves the dentist taking an impression of your teeth using a mould which is sent away to a dental laboratory.
The lab will use this mould and any other supporting material, e.g. photographs, x-rays etc to create your bridge.
The bridge is fitted on your second visit to the dentist.
This bridge will not be cemented in place until you have worn it for a couple of weeks. This gives you and your dentist time to check the fit and make any changes if necessary. Once you are both satisfied the bridge is fixed into place.
Caring for your dental bridge
Even though your bridge cannot be removed you still need to look after it. It has to be cleaned in the same your natural teeth do so ensure that you follow any instructions given by your dentist. Use dental floss or a special brush to clean underneath the bridge.
A dental bridge usually lasts for 10 or even 15 years if properly cared for.
Not suitable for a bridge? The other two alternatives are dentures or dental implants.