What Types of Dental Bridges Are Available?
Facing tooth loss or extraction due to dental disease, patients have a few strong options for replacement. A dentist may recommend bridge treatment according to the area of the mouth that requires restoration. Common bridges that are available today include:
- Traditional bridge. This type of dental bridge is commonly made to replace one or more adjacent teeth. This type of bridge involves the use of a crown for the tooth on each side of the gap. A false tooth called a pontic sits in the middle.
- Resin-bonded bridge. The resin-bonded bridge is also called a Maryland bridge. It may be recommended for front-tooth replacement due to the hidden nature of attachments to surrounding teeth.
- Cantilever bridge. Tooth loss at the back of the mouth leaves a gap with a tooth only on one side. The cantilever bridge includes a crown that fits over the one stabilizing tooth, and a pontic fused to it to sit in the empty space.
- Implant-supported bridge. The development of dental implants has paved the way for this new type of dental bridge. The implant-supported dental bridge is stabilized by one or more dental implants rather than adjacent teeth. This technique is conservative in that it preserves natural tooth structure that would otherwise require modification to accommodate the bridge.
When Would I Need an Implant-Supported Bridge?
People need a dental bridge when they have lost one or more teeth. Patients choose an implant-supported bridge to obtain the unique benefits that dental implants offer. When tooth loss occurs, it is necessary to fill the empty space. Doing so not only restores the appearance of the smile to its most natural and attractive state, but also prevents new dental problems. An empty space in the mouth is an invitation for surrounding teeth to shift. Teeth butt-up one next to another as a form of support. When there is a large gap, the teeth on each side have no support to stay in place so, over time, they can shift. This shift can result in excessive space between multiple teeth. while not as large as the original gap, the extra space in between teeth provides hiding areas for debris and oral bacteria. As a result, the person may encounter difficulties with gum disease or tooth decay.
If you are interested in exploring the benefits of an implant-supported bridge, know that your dentist will evaluate your overall dental health, including the health and structure of your gums and bone. These structures can deteriorate after tooth loss or as a result of gum disease. To be a good candidate for the dental implant process, it may be necessary to address infection and recession of the gums or, in the case of advanced periodontal disease, the effects on the jawbone. Bone density is a critical aspect of dental implant success. It is an aspect that your dentist can evaluate and, if necessary, improve with treatment like bone grafting. Patients who are interested in dental implant treatment also must not smoke. Those who do may be advised to cease their use of all tobacco products well before undergoing the implant procedure.
What Can I Expect During the Dental Implant Bridge Process?
There are three steps involved in restoring the smile with an implant-supported dental bridge. After the initial consultation and examination confirm that a patient may move directly to the implant phase, we schedule that minor surgical procedure.
- Dental implant placement is performed using a local anesthetic that numbs the area around the surgical site. Patients may also choose to receive dental sedation for this procedure. We offer several options, each of which may be discussed during the consultation so that we may plan accordingly. To place the dental implant or implants, which are tiny titanium posts, the dentist makes a small incision in the gums. This is not felt as pain due to the numbing effects of the anesthetic. Then, using a special instrument, they insert the titanium post precisely into the jawbone. The gums are stitched over the implant so that it may remain undisturbed while the bone fuses around it. This process can take four to six months.
- Abutments placement. Once the dental implants have been stabilized by osseointegration, the second phase of treatment may occur. During this visit, the dentist makes another small incision over the implants. They place abutments, which are small metal attachments, to the top of the implant posts. Abutments act as connectors for the implants and dental bridge. The gums are stitched around the abutments and left to heal for a few weeks. After abutments are in place, the dentist makes an impression of the area to create a guide for the fabrication of the dental bridge.
- Bridge placement. The dental bridge, fabricated in a dental lab to our precise specifications, is usually returned to the office in one to two weeks. This is right in line with the amount of time it takes for the gums to heal nicely around the abutments. During this visit, the dentist places the bridge over the dental implants and evaluates fit and bite.
What are the Advantages of an Implant-Supported Bridge?
Tooth loss has a significant impact on oral health, appearance, and quality of life. In the years that dental implants have been used as a common form of tooth replacement, multiple follow-up studies have discovered their extensive benefits. Patients often choose to receive implant-supported restorations for reasons such as:
- Implant-supported restorations feel just like natural teeth. The implant-retained bridge is stabilized by a new "root" rather than adjacent teeth.
- Natural tooth structure is preserved through the use of dental implants because teeth are not used as anchors for the bridge.
- The presence of dental implants in the jawbone sustains the process of bone regeneration. Like natural roots, dental implants send vibration into the jawbone when we chew. This vibration stimulates bone growth, preventing the resorption that is so common after tooth loss.
- Without the bone resorption that can occur with traditional tooth replacements, the structure of the lower face remains much more consistent over time. The risk of a sunken appearance is significantly reduced.
- Proper bite distribution. When we bite down and chew, the jaw and the temporomandibular joints absorb the force that occurs. Imbalance due to missing teeth or poorly fitting restorations can result in jaw or facial pain. A well-distributed bite, supported by dental implants, prevents this problem.
What is Recovery Like?
The primary recovery period occurs in the middle of the larger treatment plan. After the dental implant procedure, while the titanium posts are integrating into the jawbone, patients may be advised to follow certain restrictions. These may last only a few weeks, providing time for the bone to begin fusing and stabilizing the implants. The primary restrictions involve foods that should be avoided. While dental implants are in the initial stages of osseointegration, patients should avoid foods that are hard, crunchy, and chewy. Examples include popcorn, nuts, steak, bagels, and raw carrots or apples. Eating softer foods like eggs, noodles, rice, yogurt, soups, cooked vegetables, and smoothies helps the implants heal undisturbed for a time. It can also feel more comfortable to eat softer foods while the soreness and tenderness of the surgical recovery resolve. Patients may also take an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen to maintain comfort during this brief recovery period. Usually, pain medication is needed only for a few days.
Schedule a Consultation
Get your smile back! The team at Marsh Cove Dental has years of extensive training and experience using the most advanced dental implant protocols. This, we combine with the utmost care for patient comfort and long-term treatment success. Contact our Naples, FL office at (239) 331-3575 to schedule your consultation for implant-supported dental bridge treatment.