By age 21, most people will have all of their permanent teeth. With good oral hygiene and routine dental visits, most of us can keep these teeth for a lifetime. Maintaining tooth health is vital for nutrition, as we need our teeth to properly masticate food. Optimal oral health also prevents bacteria from accumulating in the gums and spreading throughout the bloodstream.
Causes and Consequences of Tooth Loss
Unfortunately, tooth loss is a common oral health problem that can affect people of all ages. While tooth loss due to gum disease is more prevalent amongst older adults, people can lose their teeth because of an injury or teeth grinding. Missing teeth leave space in the jawline for bacteria to enter and grow.
Jawbones also need teeth to maintain their size and density. As we chew, the teeth’s roots signal to the body to send nutrients to the underlying bone. When a tooth goes missing, the bone underneath doesn’t receive this stimulation. Over time, bone density shrinks. This causes the jawline to lose its shape and can cause other teeth to shift and become misaligned.
Researchers have also connected poor oral health to an increased risk for a host of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Gum diseases and other dental issues can also worsen the symptoms of many chronic diseases. Unhealthy gums are less efficient at fighting infections. Bacteria originating from the mouth can wreak havoc on the rest of the body. For example, some strains of bacteria attack the heart, resulting in endocarditis or a greater likelihood of stroke.
Dental Bridges As a Solution to Tooth Loss
To prevent these complications, dentists can replace missing teeth with durable replacements. Dental bridges are often used to stabilize the mouth when one or more teeth need to be replaced.
A bridge contains one or more false crowns or teeth that are supported on one or both sides by natural teeth, called abutments.
There are four main types of bridges used in modern dentistry. The traditional bridge contains crowns at either end of the replacement tooth.
The supporting or abutment teeth are prepared and filed to fit neatly under the crowns. If only one tooth can be used as an abutment, then the dentist may choose a cantilever design, which contains a crown on one side only.
Implant-supported bridges have the same structure as traditional bridges, except the crowns cover dental implants rather than prepared natural teeth.
Maryland bridges use metal ‘wings’ rather than crowns to adhere to the abutment teeth. This design is mainly used for front teeth. Any of these bridges may be made from resin or ceramic. Dentists can create unique 3d printer teeth using scans of the patient’s mouth. The entire process from start to finish can take two or three sessions to complete.
Advantages of Dental Bridges
While a dental bridge is not a suitable solution for every case of tooth loss, the procedure has many advantages. By plugging gaps between the teeth, dental bridges can prevent teeth shifting.
Although bridges cannot stimulate bone growth like natural teeth or implants, they can improve the shape of the face and jawline. Dental bridges are also more affordable and far less invasive than implants. This can make bridges a good choice for patients on a budget.
Once the bridge is in place, the patient may feel some slight pain or swelling. Over-the-counter painkillers are usually enough to manage side effects. Dentists also recommend following a normal hygiene routine that includes brushing twice a day, flossing, and using an antiseptic rinse.
Care and Maintenance of Dental Bridges
People with dental bridges will have an extra step in their daily oral health routine. Food can accumulate under the bridge, and it can be difficult to remove through brushing or flossing alone. Patients must use specialized products such as a dental pick or floss threader to thoroughly clean between the bridge and the gumline.
Dental bridges are a fairly permanent solution, but they will need to be replaced eventually. Patients who take good care of their teeth may extend the life of their bridges up to 30 years. However, the average dental bridge will need to be replaced after 10 to 15 years. Scheduling annual dental exams are key to monitoring a dental bridge and ensuring there are no problems with the abutments or false teeth.
If you have missing teeth, you can prevent or reverse many of the worst complications with tooth replacements like dental bridges or implants. Your dentist will create a plan based on your budget, the placement of the missing teeth, and other individual circumstances.