Adult teeth may be lost due to a variety of reasons. These include advanced periodontal disease, trauma or decay. If missing teeth are not replaced, your other teeth can drift out of position. The area also becomes more susceptible to gum disease and decay of surrounding teeth.
A bridge is a restorative structure that is used to replace missing teeth. Bridges consist of one or more false teeth (pontics) that are held in place by fixtures that attach to the surrounding teeth. Bridges fall under two main categories, "fixed" and "removable." Fixed bridges are cemented in place and cannot be taken out. Removable bridges are not permanently attached and can be removed at night or for cleaning purposes.
Bridges can dramatically improve the appearance of your teeth by replacing missing teeth, or teeth that had to be extracted. The materials used to create the bridge are made to match the color of your natural teeth, while providing comparable structural support. Most commonly, bridges are made from ceramics.
A removable bridge consists of an artificial tooth with small wire attachments on either side. These wires anchor the artificial tooth to the teeth beside it, but can be detached and the bridge removed. This is useful for cleaning, but may cause the device to be slightly weaker than a fixed bridge.
Traditional Fixed Bridge
A traditional fixed bridge is composed of a full artificial tooth with crowns attached to either side. These crowns are cemented over the teeth next to the missing tooth, and hold the artificial tooth in place where your missing tooth had been. Bridges are custom designed to look just like natural teeth and to fit with your bite.
Resin Bonded Bridge
In some cases, fixed bridges may be anchored using resin and metal bands instead of crowns. This may be appropriate when the abutment teeth are healthy, well anchored and free of fillings. In this case, metal anchors are affixed to the abutment teeth using a strong resin. The artificial tooth is then anchored to these bands.
Some fixed bridges anchor onto only one tooth. These are referred to as "cantilever bridges" and are most often used on the molars furthest back in the mouth.
The teeth next to the empty space will be reduced in order to receive the crown portion of the bridge. Then an impression will be taken of the whole area (the missing area and the two teeth next to it).
This impression is sent to a lab, and a bridge custom-designed to fit the area. Just as with the placement of a crown, a temporary bridge will be put in place to protect your teeth and gum while the restoration is being constructed.