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Dental Bridges

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A dental bridge is a common, affordable, time-tested, and low-risk treatment for missing teeth. The dental bridge is so called because it literally bridges the gap created when teeth are lost. The typical bridge comprises one or more artificial teeth, known as pontics, which are held in place by two dental crowns, or abutments. Though the replacement teeth used in bridges can be made from a variety of materials, including silver amalgam or gold, they are commonly made from porcelain for aesthetic considerations.

To place a traditional bridge, a dentist will secure the crowns to the teeth on either side of a gap, anchoring the pontic or pontics so that they fill the space. The result is a smile that is fully restored in terms of function and appearance.

However, bridges can also be attached to dental implants, which do not rely on natural teeth for support. To affix this type of restoration, a dentist will surgically embed tiny biocompatible posts made of titanium in a patient’s jawbone, and these posts secure the entire restoration. Dental implants are the only dental restorations that mimic the entire structure of missing teeth, including the roots, making them the strongest, most stable method of securing bridges available.

No matter what type of bridge a patient receives, the restoration will have significant aesthetic and practical benefits. The new teeth will restore dental functionality and oral health. Additionally, thanks to new dental technology and aesthetic advances, today’s dental bridges are virtually indistinguishable from natural teeth.

Candidacy

Virtually anyone who is missing one to three consecutive teeth is a candidate for a dental bridge. Those who are missing a larger number of teeth may be better suited to a fixed or removable partial denture. The surrounding teeth will serve as the foundation for a dental bridge. Therefore, these teeth must be structurally sound and free from decay. Additionally, if a patient has unchecked gum disease, a dentist may treat this condition before placing a bridge.

Candidates for Implant-Supported Bridges

Implants go directly inside the jawbone. Therefore, patients who are considering an implant-supported bridge must have enough healthy bone volume to support the posts. Since bone degeneration is a common side effect of tooth loss, a dentist will conduct a complete examination to determine a patient’s candidacy for an implant-supported bridge. He or she might use x-rays or CT scans to obtain a more accurate idea of a patient’s facial structure.

Even if someone has suffered bone degeneration, he or she may still be able to receive an implant-supported bridge. Advanced procedures, such as bone grafting or sinus lifts, allow dentists to enhance their patients’ jaws and create strong foundations for dental implants.

Cost

Typically, a bridge can range in cost from $500 per artificial tooth to $1,200 per tooth. Thus, a bridge with only one pontic will cost less than a bridge with two or three pontics.  However, the cost of a dental bridge will depend on a variety of factors. Considerations include:

  • The materials used: Certain advanced materials, such as IPS e.max® porcelain or zirconia, will cost more than other types of bridges. However, because these materials are so durable and lifelike, many patients consider them an invaluable investment in their smiles and dental health.
  • The fabrication process: In most cases, bridges are crafted in dental labs. However, some dentists offer same-day crowns made in their offices. This second option will typically cost a bit more, since single-appointment restorations require advanced digital technology.
  • The complexity of the placement: Lengthy or more advanced procedures will incur higher costs. For example, it will cost more to place an implant-supported bridge than a traditional crown-supported restoration.
  • Additional treatments: Sometimes dentists will perform other treatments at the same time that he or she places a bridge. These supplementary procedures will not be included in the cost of a bridge.
  • The dentist’s experience placing bridges: Dentists who are renowned for their expertise and lifelike results may charge more than their less experienced colleagues. Similarly, if a dentist works with a renowned ceramist or implant specialist, he or she may charge higher fees. Nevertheless, many patients are willing to pay slightly higher costs to ensure optimal results.
  • Your geographic location: Dental care, like many things, costs more in different areas of the country. For instance, patients who live in major urban hubs may pay more for their restorative treatment.

The best way to determine the cost of a dental bridge is to consult with a qualified and experienced dentist.

Payment

A missing tooth can greatly impair a person’s oral health and dental function. Therefore dental insurance will often fully or partially cover the cost of a dental bridge. In some cases, insurance companies may only cover the cost of a basic procedure, and patients will need to fund any additional charges themselves. For example, insurance may pay for a porcelain, crown-supported restoration. If a patient desires a zirconia bridge or an implant-supported restoration, he or she may need to pay these the additional costs out-of-pocket. At most dental offices, the administrative staff will help patients file their claims. They will make sure that patients get the full coverage to which they are entitled.

In-House Financing

Dentists often provide flexible repayment plans to patients without insurance. Those with additional non-covered costs may also benefit from these plans. Frequently, these financing options consist of fixed and/or low-interest repayment plans. In other cases, dentists may offer discounts to patients who pay in full before their treatment. In all cases, the office staff will typically help patients find the repayment plan best suited to their budgets.

Third-Party Financing

Most dentists also accept third-party financing. Companies such as Compassionate Finance® exist exclusively to provide affordable financing options for elective and non-covered medical care. These companies offer fixed, low, and no-interest repayment plans with approved credit. Most involve no fees, and approval is quick and convenient. In addition, banks and other lenders will often loan money for medical care. Again, a dentist’s office staff can often tell patients about the different financing options in their area. Most will also help with any necessary paperwork.

How to Choose a Dentist

A bridge can impact a patient’s smile, oral health, and dental functionality for decades. Therefore, individuals should exercise caution when selecting a restorative dentist. They should look for a dentist with the experience, reputation, and skills necessary to provide an aesthetically pleasing restoration in a safe and comfortable environment.

Training and Accreditation

Bridges are a common dental treatment. Dentists do not need special certification to place these restorations. Nevertheless, they should possess certain qualifications in order to perform any restorative treatment. First, patients should look for a dentist who is licensed by the state medical board. Additional memberships, fellowships, and licensures may indicate that a dentist is well-trained and esteemed in the field.

Experience and Past Results

Before choosing a dentist, patients should make that he or she has plenty of experience placing dental bridges. Often, dentists will have galleries of past work. If possible, patients should examine these pictures to see if the results appear natural. Recommendations from others can also be helpful. Doctors, general dentists, friends, or family may be able to name a good restorative dentist in the area.

Procedures and Materials Offered

Patients should research the various restorative options before choosing a dentist. Not all practitioners offer all types of bridges. For example, if a patient is particularly interested in an implant-supported bridge or a same-day restoration, he or she should look for a dentist with the necessary expertise and technology.

One-on-One Connection

Individuals should never select a dentist with visiting with him or her first. For optimal results, they should have a comfortable relationship with their dentist. They should feel that they are part of a collaborative team and that the dentist truly values their input. Patients should never select a dentist who pressures them to receive unnecessary treatment.

When visiting the office, patients should also consider the overall environment. Is this somewhere that they would feel at ease? Is the staff knowledgeable and friendly? Are the office hours convenient? Does the dentist maintain a clean office and follow proper safety protocol? All of these considerations are important to a patient’s overall experience – and oral health. For additional assistance, patients can use DocShop’s convenient search tool to find a trusted restorative dentist.

The Initial Consultation

At a patient’s first consultation, the dentist will decide whether a bridge is the right restorative choice. He or she will conduct a complete exam. The dentist may also take x-rays for a more complete diagnosis. If a patient desires an implant-supported bridge, this process will be a bit more complex. It may involve CT scans and other advanced tests.

Individual Treatment Planning

Once a dentist has established a patient’s candidacy for treatment, they will collaborate to develop a personalized treatment plan. First, they will choose the type of bridge the patient is going to receive. This will largely depend on the size and location of the restoration, as well as personal preferences. Patient and dentist will also choose the optimal material for the bridge. The dentist will consider a patient’s budget, lifestyle, and overall oral health when recommending one material over another. Finally, the practitioner may take photographs and impressions to begin designing the custom restoration.

Types of Dental Bridges

Traditional bridges are supported by two crowns on either side of the gap in a patient’s smile. Typically, these crowns will go directly on top of a patient’s adjacent teeth. To place this type of restoration, the dentist will need to reshape the nearby teeth to make room for the bridge. In the last 20 years, implant-supported bridges have become increasingly popular. These bridges also rest on two crowns, but the crowns top surgically placed implant posts, rather than the nearby teeth. Using this type of restoration, a dentist can preserve more of a patient’s natural tooth structure.

Cantilever Bridges

To place a cantilever bridge, the dentist will only crown one adjacent tooth. This single crown will support the entire restoration, which typically consists of two pontics. Dentists do not typically recommend cantilever bridges on back teeth. The molars bear most of the force of a patient’s bite. Therefore, a cantilever bridge in this area would be subject to damage and even collapse. Cantilever bridges have largely fallen out of use. However, in some cases, they can still be an excellent option, since they will preserve more of a patient’s healthy tooth structure.

Maryland Bonded Bridges

The Maryland bonded bridge, developed by researchers at the University of Maryland, involves minimal alteration of the surrounding teeth. Instead, the pontic will have two small wings, which will attach to the adjacent teeth. To place this type of bridge, the dentist will simply need to micro-etch the two supporting teeth to create a stronger bond for the restoration. In the past, the wings were always made of metal, which could eventually lend a gray tint to a patient’s smile. Today, however, Maryland bonded bridges are made with resin wings. These pieces can be custom-matched to the blend with the color of the nearby teeth. Typically, dentists will use a Maryland bonded bridge to replace a single missing tooth. In some cases, however, these bridges can replace two or three teeth.

Removable Bridges

Although most bridges are permanently fixed in a patient’s mouth, some people may benefit from a removable bridge, sometimes called a “partial denture.” Like traditional bridges, removable restorations are custom crafted to match a patient’s natural teeth. However, they have a gum colored plastic base and attach to the surrounding teeth with small metal clasps or precision attachments. Removable bridges typically cost less than crown or implant-supported restorations. Nevertheless, they do not offer the same stability or lifelike feel that a fixed bridge can provide.

Crown-Supported Bridges

When someone mentions a “dental bridge,” most people will immediately think of traditional, crown-supported bridges. These crowns are placed directly on top of a damaged tooth. Therefore the dentist must reshape these teeth to make room for the bridge and create a stable base for the new restoration.  One to three pontics attach to the crowns, filling in the gap in a patient’s smile.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Crown-Supported Bridges

The most significant benefit of crown-supported bridges is that the process is quick and easy. It does not involve lengthy treatment. Typically, after just two office visits, patients leave the office with full dental functionality. However, patients should be aware that the crowning procedure will slightly weaken the teeth supporting the restoration. In addition, unlike an implant-supported bridge, a crown-supported restoration will not prevent jawbone degeneration.

Implant-Supported Bridges

The most common alternative to a traditional crown-supported bridge is an implant-supported bridge. A dental implant is a titanium post placed directly into the jawbone. Using an abutment piece, a dentist can secure a custom-fabricated restoration directly to the implant post. In effect, the implant will becomes a new tooth root, allowing for a durable, long-lasting restoration. In fact, with proper care, dental implants can last for decades or more.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Implant-Supported Bridges

Implant placement requires oral surgery. Therefore, patients will face a longer recovery and more post-treatment sensitivity. They may also require additional preparatory treatment, such as a bone graft, to qualify for an implant-supported restoration. Patients should also note that dental implants cost more than traditional bridges.

Despite these initial drawbacks, dental implants offer numerous long-term advantages. In fact, most experts consider implants to be the top method of tooth replacement. They are extremely stable and will never slip out of place. Although they do have higher upfront costs, implants can last a lifetime. Therefore, patients typically do not have to worry about expensive replacements later down the road. Finally, dental implants are the only type of restorative treatment that can prevent jawbone degeneration. The titanium posts replace dental roots, giving off the signals that are necessary for re-mineralization.

Materials

Bridges can be made from many different materials. At the initial consultation, dentists will explain more about these various options and help patients choose the material that most suits their health needs and aesthetic goals.

Gold, Silver, and Metal Alloys

Metal bridges are the strongest and most durable type of restoration. They also require less alteration of a patient’s natural tooth structure. On the other hand, metal bridges restorations will not correspond with a patient’s smile. In most cases, dentists only recommend metal restorations on the molars, since these teeth do not show when a person smiles.

Porcelain-Fused-to-Metal

Porcelain-fused-to-metal restorations (PFM) have a metal base for strength and stability. They are coated in a porcelain shell, which will be carefully selected to match the natural color of a patient’s teeth. However, after several years, the porcelain shell may start to erode, leaving patients with a slightly gray tinted smile.

All-Porcelain

For a highly lifelike appearance, patients often choose all-porcelain restorations. These bridges are not as strong as metal. Because they are thicker, they require more alteration of the supporting teeth, and they can cause wear and tear on the other nearby teeth. However, advanced dental porcelain will blend seamlessly with a patient’s natural smile, protecting their overall appearance for years to come.

Zirconia

Zirconia is an advanced type of dental ceramic. Zirconia bridges are virtually as strong as metal. Like metal restorations, they typically require very little alteration of the natural tooth structure. They also come in a wide range of shades, and a dentist can select a color that is a near-perfect match to a patient’s smile. In addition, zirconia is slightly translucent, and therefore it can reflect light much like dental enamel. Thanks to this unique chemical makeup, zirconia bridges are virtually indistinguishable from natural teeth.

Preparing the Teeth

When patients opt for a traditional crown-supported bridge, the dentist will need to prep the adjacent teeth for dental crowns. In order to provide space for these tooth-shaped prosthetics and to ensure a suitable bonding surface, he or she will resize the teeth. This step is permanent; if a crown becomes damaged, patients will need to replace them in order to retain full dental function.

Taking Impressions

Once the surrounding teeth have been sufficiently modified, the dentist will make impressions. Many dentists use traditional putty to create these impressions. However, more and more practitioners employ digital imaging technology for the most accurate measurements available. They can also use digital impressions to create same-day crowns there in the office. Off-site lab technicians can use either type of impressions to design and fabricate restorations in a dental lab.

While the permanent bridge is being made, the dentist will place a temporary bridge to serve as a placeholder. Not only will this bridge help to restore a patient’s appearance. It will also protect their dental function, and it can help prevent damage to the reshaped teeth.

Fabricating the Bridge

In most cases, dentists offer bridges made in an off-site lab. However, as digital technology becomes increasingly affordable and convenient, more practitioners are providing same-day restorations made with CEREC® (Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics) technology.

Lab-Fabricated Bridges

The exact lab fabrication technique will depend on the type of bridge that a patient selects. Technicians will use the impressions of the patient’s teeth to make molds for the restoration. If the patient chooses a porcelain or zirconia bridge, the ceramists will typically apply the material in layers. Often, they will hand-shade each layer to ensure that the restoration matches the exact color of a patient’s smile. Whether a patient selects a metal or a tooth-colored bridge, dentists and technicians will use extremely precise techniques to provide a lifelike restoration. They will also work hard to maintain their patients’ dental alignment and the force of their bite.

Same-Day Dental Bridges

Many dentists offer same-day dental bridges, made with an in-office milling machine. To provide this type of bridge, the dentist will take digital impressions of patient’s teeth. These impressions will transfer to a chairside computer, creating a three-dimensional model of the patient’s smile. The dentist can then alter these images, manipulating them to design a highly precise custom bridge. This design will feed into a milling machine, which works much like a 3-D printer. The machine will fabricate the new bridge from a single block of porcelain. As soon as the bridge is complete, the dentist can attach it to the patient’s teeth. After just one appointment, they could enjoy a fully restored smile and dental function.

Placing the Bridge

Once the bridge is finished, a patient will return to the dentist’s office. At that time, the dentist will remove the temporary prosthetic and place the permanent bridge. He or she will use dental cement to anchor the crowns. The dentist will also secure the pontic to the gum tissue to prevent bacterial incursion.

Placing an Implant-Supported Bridge

Implant-supported bridges requires a more complex procedure. First, the dentist or oral surgeon must determine a patient’s candidacy for implants. He or she will use x-rays, CT scans, and other imaging devices to obtain a complete picture of a patient’s jaw. This will reveal whether or not a patient has sufficient bone density to support implants. It will also help the dentist determine the right position for the implants.

To perform the procedure itself, the dentist will numb the patient’s gums and jawbone. Then he or she will create tiny incisions in the soft tissues. Typically, a dentist will use manual instruments. However, an increasing number of dentists employ advanced digital devices. These state-of-the-art instruments can yield more precise results and a faster recovery time. Through the incisions, the oral surgeon will place the implant posts in the patient’s jawbone. When the process is finished, he or she will use tiny stitches to reposition the gum tissue around the implants.

It will typically take four to six months for a patient’s jaw and gums to heal. Most dentists will supply a temporary restoration to wear during recovery. Throughout the healing process, the tissues will seal around the implant posts. When the patient has fully recovered, the dentist will use abutment pieces to attach the permanent bridge to the tops of the implant posts.

Combining Bridges with Other Treatments

Dentists will often place a dental bridge in conjunction with one or more additional treatments. By combining procedures in a smile makeover or full mouth reconstruction, patients can enjoy a transformed smile and improved self-confidence.

Crowns

Crowns are an important component of traditional dental bridges. However, single crowns can also repair surrounding damaged teeth. If a patient has a cracked, chipped, internally stained, or otherwise damaged tooth, a crown can conceal these blemishes. Additionally, a crown can strengthen a weakened tooth or cover up a cavity that may be too large for a dental filling. The crowning procedure is nearly identical to the process of placing a crown-supported bridge. The dentist will reshape the damaged tooth, take impressions, and attach the custom-fabricated crown. Like bridges, these restorations can be made of metal, porcelain-fused-to-metal, all-porcelain, or zirconia.

Fillings

A filling is a common treatment to include in a full mouth reconstruction, and it is typically the optimal way to treat a small to moderately sized cavity. When placing a filling, a dentist will clean out all bacteria and decay from the tooth, preventing the further growth of the cavity. The filling itself will strengthen the walls of the tooth and restore functionality. Fillings can be made of silver amalgam or composite resin. Composite will blend with the natural shade of a patient’s tooth. It will also form a more durable bond with the dental structure. If a patient already has a silver amalgam filling, he or she may choose to have it replaced with a composite restoration. Often, this will occur at the same time that they receive a dental bridge.

Inlays and Onlays

Inlays and onlays fall partway between crowns and fillings. If a patient has a cavity that is too large for a filling, an inlay or onlay can restore their tooth with minimal alteration of the natural tooth structure. These custom-made restorations go on the chewing surfaces of molars. Made of metal, porcelain, or zirconia, they are individually fabricated to match the surrounding teeth. Inlays nestle in between the pointed cusps on the tops of teeth. Onlays are larger, and they extend partway down the sides of a patient’s tooth.

Teeth Whitening

A bridge can have a transformative effect on patient’s smile. However, to touch up the surrounding natural teeth, a patient may opt for teeth whitening. Both in-office and at-home whitening treatments use peroxide-based whitening gel to chemically break down stains on the surfaces of teeth. Dentists typically recommend that patients undergo teeth whitening before they receive their bridge. In this way, the dentists and ceramists can make sure the restoration matches the new color of a patient’s smile.

Porcelain Veneers

Like whitening, porcelain veneers can enhance the teeth surrounding a dental bridge. These incredibly thin porcelain shells attach directly to the front of teeth. In this way, they can reshape small or irregular teeth. They can also conceal a myriad of cosmetic flaws, including chips, worn edges, hairline cracks, internal stains, and much more. To place veneers, dentists will typically need to remove a small amount of enamel from the front of a patient’s teeth. However, some practitioners offer no-prep or minimal-prep veneers. These restorations are thinner than traditional veneers. Therefore, they require little to no enamel removal.

Results

The results of a dental bridge will vary slightly for each person. However, in most cases, patients will notice the results of their treatment immediately after the placement of their dental bridge. These results include:

  • Filling in the gaps in a patient’s smile
  • Improving the ability to eat normally
  • Resolving speech difficulties
  • Restoring proper bite balance

With proper care, dental bridges are extremely durable. Therefore, patients could enjoy these results for decades or even for the rest of their lives.

Maintenance

When properly cared for, a bridge can last 10 to 15 years or more. Implant-supported bridges can last even longer – often for the rest of a patient’s life. Fortunately, maintenance is quite easy.

Protecting the Natural Teeth

The best way for patients to care for their restoration is to take good care of their natural teeth. Although the bridge is not subject to decay, bacteria can still affect the teeth underneath the dental crowns. When this occurs, a dentist will need to remove the bridge in order to address the cavity. Many times, these teeth will no longer be able to support a new restoration. Additionally, gum disease can affect the longevity of a bridge, as well as a patient’s overall oral health.

To maintain dental wellness, patients should:

  • Brush at least twice a day using a soft-bristled brush and non-abrasive toothpaste.
  • Floss at least once a day.
  • Use safe, ADA-approved mouthwash
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Visit the dentist at least twice a year for a cleaning and check-up
  • Avoid smoking

Protecting the Bridge

Although dental bridges cannot become decayed, they can sustain structural damage. The restorative material is incredibly durable, but it is not quite as strong as natural teeth. To protect their dental bridges, patients should:

  • Avoid using their teeth to open packages, pull off tags, and perform similar tasks.
  • Stop biting their nails, chewing on pencils, chewing ice, etc.
  • Chew very hard or sticky foods on the other side of their mouths.
  • Wear bruxism mouthguards, as instructed by their dentists.

Many practitioners will fill in the area between a bridge and a patient’s gums. When this does not occur, however, patients must take extra steps to prevent bacteria from accumulating in this area. There are special flosses and toothbrushes that can effectively clean this hard-to-reach area. Water flossing devices can also be helpful. In every case, patients should ask their dentists about the best ways to care for their dental bridge and protect their overall oral health.

Aesthetic Benefits

Missing teeth can become the most noticeable feature of a patient’s appearance. Dental bridges can fill in the embarrassing gaps in a person’s smile, dramatically improving their overall look. By replacing these missing teeth, a bridge can also help a person look years younger.

Improved Facial Structure

When someone has missing teeth, their faces may take on a sunken look. In part, this is because the lips and cheeks will start to droop, filling in the spaces in the patient’s smile. Additionally, jawbone degeneration is a common side effect of tooth loss. The dental roots give off important regenerative signals each time the teeth touch. These signals stimulate the production of new minerals, which will replace those lost over time. Both crown-supported and implant-supported bridges can prevent the soft tissues from sagging. By replacing the dental roots, as well as the teeth themselves, implants can also prevent jawbone degeneration.

Oral Health Benefits

Missing teeth can cause cosmetic, functional, and health problems for patients. By replacing missing teeth, bridges offer significant advantages for a patient’s complete dental health. Among other things, a bridge will:

  • Prevent the movement of remaining teeth
  • Help prevent TMJ disorder
  • Improve bite problems
  • Improve problems with speech
  • Reduce the risk of bone loss
  • Reduce the risk of periodontal disease
  • Reduce the risk of tooth decay
  • Provide additional support for the facial structure
  • Enable patients to enjoy a varied diet
  • Increase stability and comfort compared to traditional removable dentures

Many patients prefer dental bridges to dental implants, due to their affordability and brief treatment time. However, other patients prefer the stability and durability of implant supported restorations. Patients should discuss their various treatment options with their dentists to determine the optimal solutions for their smiles.

Risks

The dental bridges procedure is an excellent treatment option for patients who are missing teeth. However, they have their limitations as well. For example, in order to receive a dental bridge, patients must have natural teeth that are strong enough to support the restoration. They must also have healthy gums. Further, in comparison to a denture or large implant-supported restoration, a bridge can generally only be used to replace up to two to three teeth in a row.

Low Risk of Long Term-Problems

Dental bridges are very safe, and they rarely pose any problems for a patient’s long-term health. Nevertheless, as with all procedures, there are some slight risks. These include:

  • Bridges are not removable, making them more difficult to keep clean.
  • Some of the natural surrounding teeth will need to be removed to prep them for placement of the dental crowns.
  • If surrounding teeth are not strong enough to support it or the bridge span is too long, the restoration can collapse.
  • Dental bridges eventually need to be replaced; they typically last for several years.
  • An allergic reaction to the anesthetic or, more rarely, to the restorative material used to create the bridge.
  • An increased risk for decay in the abutment teeth.
  • Damage to the pulp or nerves in the abutment teeth.

Choosing an experienced restorative dentist with a reputation for clinical excellence can further reduce this already low risk of complications.

Temporary Side Effects

Although dental bridge placement typically involves a brief recovery, patients may experience a few short term-side effects. In most cases, these minor symptoms can be controlled with non-prescription medications. Dentists can guide their patients in the best ways to care for their teeth following the placement of their bridges.

Tooth Sensitivity

Because the dentist will need to reshape a patient’s teeth before placing a bridge, dental sensitivity is the most common side effect. In particular, teeth may be susceptible to changes in temperature. Therefore, patients may want to avoid particularly hot or cold foods for a few days after treatment. Eating a soft diet and using anti-sensitivity toothpaste can also help to minimize discomfort. In some cases, dentists may recommend mild, non-prescription pain medication.

If a patient experiences discomfort when biting down on the bridge, this could indicate that the restoration fits incorrectly. A dentist can adjust the bridge to restore the balance and force of a patient’s bite.

Gum Irritation

Patients may experience some minor gum inflammation and sensitivity following the placement of their dental bridges. Typically, this will subside after a few weeks. However, if the discomfort lasts longer than that, or if it is particularly severe, patients should alert their dentists. It could be a sign of infection or an allergic reaction.

Additionally, patients should note that gum irritation will be more pronounced following the placement of an implant-supported bridge. In these cases, a dentist may prescribe pain medication. Eating a soft diet for several days will also give the gums a chance to heal.

Ptyalism (Excess Saliva)

The partoid gland is responsible for producing the right amount of saliva. If the bridge touches this gland, it may increase the amount of saliva. Patients may also rub their tongues over the new restoration as they get used to the feel of it in their mouths. In turn, this can stimulate saliva production. Excess saliva does not pose any health risks, but it can be annoying. The condition typically goes away on its own, although patients should visit their dentists to make sure this is not a symptom of another underlying problem.

Speech Difficulties

In the long run, a dental bridge can improve patients’ ability to speak clearly, since the tongue and teeth help people to articulate. However, it may take a few weeks for patients to get used to the feel of the bridge. Therefore, individuals may have a hard time making certain sounds, especially if they received a bridge in the front of their mouths. Speech exercises can help patients adjust to their bridges more quickly.

Safety Data

Although dental bridge placement involves minimal discomfort, some patients may feel apprehensive about their treatment. Therefore, a number of dentists offer sedation options, including IV sedation, oral sedation, and nitrous oxide. In addition, dentists always use local anesthetic before reshaping a patient’s tooth. It is rare for people to have an adverse reaction to dental anesthetic. However, in a very few cases, patients can have severe reactions. For this reason, it is important for dental professionals and their patients to be fully informed about these risks.

Certain factors can increase a patients’ chances of a poor reaction. These risk factors include:

  • Existing health conditions: Patients with asthma, coronary artery disease (CAD), diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, epilepsy, and other conditions are more likely to have a bad reaction to sedation.
  • Age: Patients under age 6 and over age 65 are more likely to have an adverse response, since it is difficult to gauge the right amount of anesthetic needed.
  • Weight: Underweight patients have a lower tolerance to drugs. Therefore, it is easier for dentists to misjudge the amount of sedation needed.
  • Liver or kidney disorders: These problems can inhibit the body’s ability to absorb and eliminate anesthesia. The medication can build up in a patient’s bloodstream, leading to an overdose.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy can affect kidney function. Expectant mothers will face similar risks to patients with kidney disorders.
  • Genetics: Due to certain genetic conditions, some patients may not be able to metabolize the medications properly.

Patients who face these high risk factors should alert their dentists before treatment. The practitioner will use extra caution when administering the medication. He or she may also recommend using a different form of sedation. If patients are interested in IV or oral sedation, they should look for dentists with advanced training in this field. Specially trained dentists are better equipped to look for the signs of a negative reaction. Patients could also choose a dentist who works with an anesthesiologist.

Allergic Reactions to Dental Materials

As stated above, some patients may be allergic to the materials used to create a dental bridge. Allergy symptoms can include sinusitis, gum inflammation, and dermatitis. Patients who think they may have a high risk for allergies should alert their dentists before their treatment. Tooth-colored materials, such as porcelain and zirconia, rarely cause allergic reactions. Therefore, they may be a better choice for these patients.

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I too old for a dental bridge?
Most senior patients are good candidates for a dental bridge. To receive this treatment, your nearby teeth must be strong enough to support the restoration. You should also be healthy enough to tolerate local anesthesia. An implant-supported bridge can also be a great choice for older patients. However, your dentist will first make sure that you have enough bone volume to support the implants.

Can children get dental bridges?
Dentists rarely recommend dental bridges for pediatric patients. If a child loses a tooth to decay or injury, dentists will typically use a space maintainer. This device will prevent the other teeth from shifting to fill in the space in the child’s smile. It will also leave room for the permanent adult tooth to erupt. If a child loses a permanent tooth, he or she can typically receive a bridge after the teeth and jaw have stopped developing. This typically occurs between the ages of 16 and 18.

Can I get a dental bridge right after my extraction?
If you have a severely damaged tooth, your dentist may recommend removing the tooth and replacing it entirely. In many cases, your dentist can supply a same-day temporary bridge to fill in the gap in your smile. When your gums have recovered, you will return to receive your permanent bridge. However, in some cases, you may not be eligible for the temporary restoration. Your dentist will determine your candidacy at your initial consultation.

Can I get a dental bridge if I am pregnant?
Because of the health risks associated with anesthesia, dentists recommend that pregnant women avoid non-emergency dental treatment until after their babies are born.

How much time should I take off from work to receive my dental bridge?
Traditional, crown-supported bridges require virtually no recovery time. In most cases, you will only need to take time off for the procedure itself. However, if you are going to receive an implant-supported bridge, or if you opt for dental sedation, you may want to take at least one day off from work to recover.

How long will the treatment take?
The length of time needed for your procedure will vary depending on your unique needs. On average, however, you will need two visits to the dentist. Each appointment will last about an hour to an hour and a half.

What information should I bring to my initial consultation?
If you are visiting a new dentist for your restorative treatment, you should come prepared to discuss your dental and physical health history. In particular, alert your dentist if you have diabetes, a blood disorder, kidney disease, liver disease, or high blood pressure. You should also tell your dentist if you are pregnant, and you should bring a full list of current medications. Additionally, be prepared to discuss your cosmetic goals for treatment. In this way, the dentist can help you choose right material and the type of bridge that is most suited to your smile.

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