As well as possibly being a blow to your self-esteem, missing teeth can cause a variety of problems in your life, from difficulty speaking normally to problems eating properly resulting in poor nutrition. Fortunately, modern dentistry now has several excellent options for tooth replacement available to dental patients.
One of the most simple and reliable methods available is also one of the oldest and most commonly performed: the dental bridge. Drs. John And Sara Gotwalt, of Gotwalt Distinguished Family Care, a skilled and respected dental practice in Lititz, PA want to take a moment to explain the benefits of bridges for restoring a healthy smile.
What is a Dental Bridge?
A bridge is a kind of dental prosthesis (artificial replacement part) that replaces a missing tooth. It is made of at least three crowns attached together. In dental terms, the crown replacing the missing tooth is called a “pontic” (from the French word “pont” meaning bridge). The healthy adjacent teeth — termed the abutments — are also crowned to support it on either side. The completed restoration spans the gap in your teeth just like a bridge crossing over a canyon.
However, the teeth that will become the abutments must be prepared for this role by being crowned or “capped.” This is done exactly as if the teeth were being crowned due to tooth decay. The outer layer of enamel on the abutment teeth is removed so that the crown completely covers them without looking or feeling overly large and changing the appearance of your mouth.
Building a Bridge
As explained above, if you have one missing tooth, your bridge will require three connected crowns: two to cover the abutment teeth on either side of the gap left by the missing tooth and one in between to replace it. This configuration is known as a three-unit bridge.
If more than one tooth is missing, more crowns (and possibly more abutment teeth) will be needed to form the bridge. Your dentist will calculate how many crowns will be needed using several variables: the number of teeth missing, the size, length and stability of the abutment tooth roots, and also from where in the mouth the teeth were lost.
Therefore, if you are missing three teeth, four abutment teeth may be necessary, which will form a seven unit bridge. Engineering and designing the bridge requires Dr. Gotwalt to have a working knowledge of the biology of the tooth-supporting gum and bone tissue as well as how to replace teeth.
What to Expect
Bridgework can often be completed in just two visits to Dr. Gotwalt’s office. Local anesthetic will be administered and your abutment teeth will be prepared for crowning. After the enamel has been removed, molds of the abutment teeth will be made to allow for the creation of three-dimensional models which your dentist will use to create the crowns to form your bridge. During this initial visit, a temporary bridge will be fitted before you leave so that you will still be able to eat and speak as you’re accustomed to until your permanent restoration is ready.
Once your permanent bridge has been crafted, you will need to return for a second visit to have it permanently placed. It may take some time for you to adjust to the feel of the new bridge against your tongue, lips, and cheeks, but you’ll eventually come to accept it as part of your own teeth and may even forget it is there sometimes.
Caring for your Bridge
Bridges require the same conscientious care as your natural teeth. Dentists recommend brushing twice daily and flossing daily to reduce the build-up of plaque and bacteria that cause tooth decay. Flossing will be slightly more complicated as you must weave the floss under the connected crowns to clean between them but a dental bridge that is properly maintained can last you almost a decade. Dr. Gotwalt can review the care requirements with you during your consultation.
Dental Bridges in Lititz, PA
If you are in the Lititz, PA area and would like to discuss tooth replacement options with a skilled professional dentist or even just have a routine teeth cleaning, call 717-220-4651 or schedule online with Gotwalt Distinguished Family Care today.