There are several methods for replacing a missing tooth, including a dental implant, dentures, or a dental bridge. A quick fix that is relatively inexpensive is called a dental bridge.
Because something has to hold the replacement tooth (called a pontic) in place, a bridge attaches to the two adjacent teeth. The dentist can construct both a permanent and a temporary bridge. Depending upon which you prefer or your particular situation, the dentist will recommend one over the other.
There are two basic types of bridges available. The first type requires the permanent alteration of your adjacent teeth. The tooth on either side of the gap must be trimmed back substantially. The altered teeth will have a permanent crown mounted on them. The bridge will then span the gap, holding the artificial tooth.
The second type of bridge is often called a Maryland bridge. It does not permanently alter the teeth on either side of the gap. Instead, the dentist will permanently attach the pontic by using "wings" that attach to the rear of the adjacent teeth. Depending upon where in your mouth the replacement tooth is located, the bridge could have two or four wings holding it secure.
There are two drawbacks to a Maryland bridge. First, it is weaker than the other type of bridge and is prone to breaking or coming unglued. Second, the replacement tooth cannot be translucent. Due to the metal wiring behind it, a translucent tooth could be unsightly. In addition, the metal wiring tends to cast a gray hue over the adjacent teeth. There is a replacement tooth available that is reinforced with natural-colored plastic wings, but it is substantially more expensive. However, considering it is your smile we are talking about, the additional cost may be worth it for you.
A non-wire bridge usually requires two dental appointments. At the first appointment, the dentist will shave or trim the adjacent teeth in preparation for the bridge. He will then take a mold of your teeth, which his laboratory will use to create the artificial tooth and crowns comprising the bridge. The dentist will install a temporary bridge while you are waiting for yours to be custom crafted.
On your return visit, the dentist will remove your temporary bridge and throw it away. He will then install your custom bridge, permanently cementing it into place.
After your new bridge has been installed, you may experience hot and cold sensitivity from the teeth adjacent to the artificial tooth. That sensitivity should dissipate within a week. If you experience any substantial pain or discomfort, return to your dentist so he can ensure nothing is wrong with the bridge or its installation.
Bridges are not expected to last your lifetime. If properly cared for, a bridge can last anywhere from ten to fifteen years. If you would like a more permanent solution to your missing tooth, and you have the money to spend, you should consider a dental implant.
If you have any further questions about a bridge, speak with an expert – any family dentist who can apply his knowledge to your specific needs.