One way of replacing a missing tooth is with a fixed partial denture that is commonly called a bridge. A bridge replaces the missing tooth by spanning the area that has no tooth. The bridge is cemented to natural teeth and the replacement tooth is attached to the cemented teeth. The natural teeth that receive the cemented portion of the bridge are called abutments and hold the bridge in place. Bridges can replace more than one missing tooth. The longer the span of the bridge i.e. the greater the number of missing teeth being replaced, the weaker the bridge becomes, and it is more susceptible to failure.
Why replacement of lost teeth is important
Missing teeth should be replaced with restorations like a bridge to prevent complications with other teeth, gums and bone. All teeth in the mouth are important. Many people place more value on their front teeth because they affect their smile and overall esthetic appearance. The front teeth and back teeth have different functions. The front teeth bite off food and the back teeth grind up food so we can swallow the food for nutrition. Unfortunately, back teeth are often not replaced resulting in a significant long-term deterioration of the mouth. When the back teeth are not replaced the front teeth are overused to compensate for the back tooth loss at the expense of their overall dental health. All teeth are required in your mouth so they can maintain proper alignment between each other and the teeth in the opposing jaw.
When missing teeth are not replaced, the remaining teeth will become crooked by drifting into the space left by the missing tooth. Teeth in the opposing arch will move looking for a tooth to bite against causing the teeth to further misalign. Interferences in the bite may cause changes in the chewing pattern, problems with the jaw joint (TMJ) or muscle spasms of the head and neck muscles. If enough back teeth are missing, the front teeth may start to wear down resulting in a poor smile. Difficulties in cleaning crooked teeth may lead to further tooth loss due to decay and gum disease. With all of the bad things that can happen when a tooth is lost, the best course of action is to replace it.
Advantages of Bridges
- A bridge is cemented in place and is not removable
- A bridge feels similar to natural teeth
- A bridge functions similar to a natural tooth
- A bridge looks similar to a natural tooth
Disadvantages of Tooth Supported Fixed Bridges
- Costs more that a denture
- Supporting teeth are altered permanently
- The supporting teeth may require root canals at a future time
- If part of the bridge fails, often the whole bridge fails