Stephen H Hook DDS
What is a Dental Bridge?
A dental bridge is replacement for a missing tooth (or teeth) that normally is fixed in the patient’s mouth. Dental bridges are not removed except by the dentist. The most common type of bridge involves two anchor teeth, one on either side of a missing tooth space. The space for the missing tooth is “bridged” by crowns on the two anchor teeth with a false tooth attached to the crowns forming one single unit. When properly made, the bridge appears perfectly natural to the layman’s eye and is so comfortable for the patient that often they forget that they are missing any teeth at all. The anchoring teeth for a bridge can be dental implants and more than one false tooth can be combined into a single bridge.
Alternatives to Dental Bridges
A common alternative to a dental bridge is to leave the space and not replace the tooth, especially if the space doesn’t show and if chewing is still possible. However, this is one of the poorest choices for it usually leads to long-term shifting of the adjacent teeth, disruption of the normal bite, trapping of food in the resulting gaps and tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath, all from the loss of a tooth that was not replaced. (For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; for want of the horse the rider was lost; for want….battle, war, kingdom, etc!)
One of the best alternatives to a dental bridge is a dental implant (see also dental implants) where an artificial tooth root is embedded in the bone and the replacement tooth is then attached to the artificial root. Implants are wonderful in that they can last a lifetime and don’t decay. They have some limitations in highly cosmetic areas and usually more initial expense than a dental bridge. Also the healing time and transition time is usually longer with implants than with a dental bridge.
If the space where the teeth are missing is large or if there is an anchor tooth only on one side of the space, then another common alternative is a removable prosthesis commonly known as a partial denture. Correctly made and maintained, this is a very practical and cost effective alternative, but some people are dissatisfied with a removable device.
Obviously any treatment like a dental bridge needs to be thoroughly understood by the patient before therapy commences. Questions like costs, risks, limitations after treatment, and likelihood of success are all just as important as the alternatives — not to mention the universal concern, that of fear. All normal people like to avoid unnecessary discomfort. For the most part modern dentistry is very comfortable, but we all have our misgivings.
There is no replacement for Dr./Patient trust! When all is said and done each must trust the other. The dentist trusts the patient to gratefully pay the fee quoted, to punctually keep appointments and to truthfully communicate all concerns as soon as they arise and, of course, to brush and floss! The patient must trust the dentist to perform the needed and agreed upon treatment to the best of their ability in an excellent, compassionate and fairly-priced manner. With this type of trust the bridge or any of type of care will be very successful!