Fixed partial dentures, also known as “bridges,” are an option for filling the space created by one or more missing teeth. Gaps left by missing teeth eventually cause the remaining teeth to rotate or shift into the empty spaces, resulting in a bad bite. The imbalance caused by missing teeth can also lead to gum disease and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. A bridge replaces the missing tooth, both functionally and cosmetically. They span the space where the teeth are missing. Bridges are cemented to the natural teeth or implants surrounding the empty space. These adjacent teeth, called abutments, serve as anchors for the bridge. A replacement tooth, called a pontic, is attached to the crowns that cover the abutments. The materials used may be gold alloys, porcelain bonded to metal alloy or all ceramic material. The choice of material depends on requirements for strength, wear and/or esthetics.
Before a bridge can be made, the adjacent teeth must be reduced in size so that the bridge will fit over them properly. After reducing the teeth, an impression is made to provide an exact mold for the lab to produce the bridge. If porcelain is to be used, the correct shade for the bridge is selected to match the color of the existing teeth. A temporary crown or bridge will be put in place to cover the prepared tooth while the permanent bridge is made. Using the impression, a dental lab makes your bridge. When the permanent bridge is ready, the temporary bridge is removed, and the bridge is cemented over the prepared teeth.
While bridges can last a lifetime, they do sometimes come loose or fall out. The most important step you can take to ensure the longevity of your crown or bridge is to practice good oral hygiene. A bridge can lose its support if the teeth or bone holding it in place are damaged by dental disease. Keep your gums and teeth healthy by brushing with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing daily. Also come in regularly for checkups and professional cleanings. To prevent damage to your new crown or bridge, avoid chewing hard foods, ice or other hard objects.