Sometimes in life, the tooth fairy leaves us with the short end of the stick. If you're missing a tooth due to trauma, or decay, medication or hypodontia (meaning, one or two of your permanent teeth never arrived), then you'll know exactly what we mean. And, while the imaginary tooth fairy might have left you hanging without a replacement tooth, your real life dentist can help provide an affordable and cosmetically appropriate solution in the form of a dental bridge. Let's find out more about how they work!
Why You Might Need a BridgeWith 69% of adults experiencing the loss of a tooth between the ages of 35-44, if you're in the missing tooth camp, you're certainly not alone. A “bridge,” then, is a form of dental prosthetic that allows for the placement of an artificial tooth in an area where a healthy tooth used to exist.
When an entire tooth is lost, a bridge acts as a unifying device that supports the artificial tooth, and eliminates the gap between adjacent teeth. To accomplish this, the artificial tooth (known as a pontic), needs to be joined to these adjacent teeth in order to stay in place.
How Do They Work?This can be done by using a crown as a connecting anchor for the artificial tooth, or a type of tooth colored filling known as an “inlay” or “onlay,” can be used in the same fashion. An onlay is used when support is needed along a "cusp" (the raised points on the biting surface), and an inlay is used when support is required between these cusps. To visualize how this type of filling functions, it might help to think of them as the raised pins on upside-down version of a Lego® block. Essentially, like a Lego block, they help to keep the bridge secure once cemented to your healthy teeth.
How Are They Installed?To prepare for a two-surface bridge onlay, a dentist will first remove the portion of your healthy tooth that will act as the anchor (or, abutment). Then, depending on the process used by your dentist, either a physical impression of the tooth will be made, or 3D imaging will be used to render a digital impression. Next, your dentist will likely fit you with a temporary bridge until your custom bridge has been completed.
In total, you should expect to visit your dentist once to sort out all of the diagnostics and abutment tooth preparation, and then again to sort out all of the customization details. Once your custom bridge has returned from the lab, it would be laid into the excavated areas of your abutment teeth, and then either bonded or cemented into place.
And, that's it! With the kind of care you already provide to your other teeth, your bridge should last anywhere from 10-15 years. So, if you're concerned about what you look like without a tooth, or several teeth, check with your dentist. A bridge may be a great option for you.