Losing one or more of your adult teeth is enough to make anyone feel self-conscious. But missing teeth aren't just a cosmetic problem. Their absence can actually impair your oral health – if not addressed.
Dental bridges are one method of closing the gap. These are prosthetic teeth (or "pontics"), secured in place via anchors to your healthy, natural teeth.
Benefits of Dental Bridges
When one tooth is lost, it generally begins a chain reaction of further tooth loss. Without others to keep them in place, your remaining teeth have a tendency to drift into the empty space, and may grow further and further out of your gumline. This is called supra-eruption, and can lead to problems including exposed roots.
In addition, food and plaque will gather easily in the gaps left by missing teeth and inflame gum tissues. Brushing and flossing effectively becomes more difficult, increasing your risk of developing cavities and gum disease.
Finally, replacing lost teeth is critical for the health and integrity of your jawbone. Every time you bite down, the pressure against your teeth stimulates the underlying bone, causing it to rebuild and adjust. This is perfectly normal. But if your teeth are missing and the bone is no longer stimulated, it begins to deteriorate – and that can lead to a visibly shrunken jaw.
Dental bridges solve each of these problems by filling in the space left behind with natural-looking, fully functional replacements. They protect your smile, and your ability to speak and chew properly, for many years to come.
The Different Types of Dental Bridges
Although all dental bridges operate under the same principle, they do come in a several distinct configurations:
- Traditional bridges – healthy teeth on either side of the gap receive a crown or cap to serve as anchors, and the pontic/s fill the space in between.
- Cantilever bridges – similar to traditional bridges, but with a crown or cap on only one side of the gap.
- Maryland bonded bridges – rather than placing crowns, "wings" made of resin are used to anchor the pontic/s to adjacent teeth.
Which dental bridge is best for you will vary, depending on your specific situation. And alternatives to dental bridges, such as dental implants and fully removable dentures, may be viable options to replace missing teeth as well. As always, it's best to discuss any major procedure with your cosmetic dentist or oral surgeon in advance.