If you are missing one or several teeth, one of the options your dentist might suggest is replacing the tooth with a dental bridge. Unlike an implant, which replaces the tooth both below and above the gumline, a bridge only replaces the visible crown portion of your tooth. If you're like most people, you're going to have a few questions as your dental bridge treatment approaches. Here are the answers!
1. How will the bridge stay in place?
There is a common misconception that dental bridges are removable. They really are not, although your dentist can remove them if needed. The bridge will attach to two crowns -- each of which is placed on a tooth on either side of the gap. That's why the device is called a bridge; it bridges the two remaining teeth. The bridge itself is attached to the crowns with a special dental cement.
2. Will you need more than one bridge if you are missing multiple teeth?
This depends on where in your mouth the missing teeth are located. If you are missing two teeth in a row, your dentist will use one bridge to replace both of them. The bridge will simply hold two false teeth. If the teeth are on opposite sides of your mouth, on the other hand, you will need one bridge for each gap. Your dentist will probably insert the bridges at the same time, since this approach means they'll only have to anesthetize you once.
3. Will you be awake when the bridge is inserted?
Yes! Having a bridge put in place is nothing like having an implant put into place. The dentist will not need to cut into your gums or perform any sort of surgery. They will use a local anesthetic, like lidocaine, to numb the area around the teeth to be worked on. Then, they will grind down the enamel on the teeth bordering the gap. This makes space for the crowns. Next, they will put the crowns in place, following by the bridge itself.
4. How many appointments will you need?
Some dentists will perform the bridge procedure across two appointments. During the first appointment, your teeth will be measured, your enamel filed down, and temporary crowns put into place. During the second appointment, they'll attach the permanent crowns and bridge. They need the time in between appointments to send your information to the lab and have the crowns and bridge made.
If your dentist has in-house crown and bridge-making equipment, they may do the entire procedure in one appointment. You'll simply need to wait around for a half hour or so while the devices are being made.
5. Are bridges permanent?
Most people consider bridges semipermanent. If you are quite young, you may eventually need to have the bridge replaced due to wear. Some people just need to have the bridge removed and recemented in place to keep it strong. Expect to wear your bridge for at least 10 years without the need for replacement or recementing.
6. Will people be able to tell if you have a bridge?
In most cases, a bridge won't be obvious unless someone looks at you closely. The false teeth used today, along with the crowns, are typically made with tooth-colored porcelain. Porcelain is less likely to stain than tooth enamel, so over time, your bridge tooth may end up lighter in color than your other teeth. However, a whitening treatment can help rebalance the colors and make your bridge less obvious.
Hopefully, your biggest questions about dental bridges have now been answered! If you have any remaining questions, talk to your dentist.