How Much Are Bridges For Teeth
Teeth bridges are used to replace missing or diseased teeth by connecting two neighboring teeth with artificial teeth made of porcelain (pontics) that fit over the gums. The bridged teeth may also have metal clasps attached to crowns on either side of the gap to hold them in place. A traditional bridge normally has four natural teeth on each side of the gap, called abutments, supported by false teeth called implants. Dental implants cost more than most people can afford without some type of financial assistance such as dental insurance coverage. Teeth bridges can be expensive, but they do not need to be if you know how to get an estimate from an experienced dentist.
Bridging is recommended when there is at least 4mm of space between the teeth on both sides of the gap [Source: WebMD]. The size of the space determines whether the gap will require periodontal surgery before inserting a permanent bridge. If the gap requires surgery, then it is referred to as a “Class I” reconstruction. The minimum width needed for a Class I gap is 3 mm. In general, the width of the gap should be no less than 2 mm since this allows the gum tissues to heal properly after insertion of the bridge.
The length of the bridge depends on the amount of space available between the teeth on either side of the gap. Because of the limited amount of room between the teeth on either side of the gap, many patients choose to use only one crown per side instead of using two crowns placed end-to-end. However, a patient who wants to use two crowns can still have a long lasting bridge. It just means that the two crowns must be spaced apart by about 1 cm, which is usually achieved through careful planning during treatment.
There are three types of bridges: single-unit fixed prosthetic bridges, cantilever fixed prosthetic bridges, and implant overdenture bridges. Single unit bridges connect all four natural teeth on each side of the gap together with artificial teeth covering the entire span of the bridge. Cantilevered bridges are the next level up because they contain additional support structures that allow the artificial teeth to move slightly away from the original teeth position. An implant overdenture bridge contains individual units that attach to adjacent implants rather than natural teeth.
When discussing the various options for replacing lost or damaged teeth, dentists often focus on cosmetic considerations such as color and shape, but the best option for good chewing function is to select a bridge design based on what’s known as occlusion. Occlusion refers to how well two opposing upper teeth meet behind lower teeth once the upper teeth are positioned correctly. Ideally, the upper teeth should come down into contact with the base of the lower teeth, forming a solid foundation of support for chewing. When the upper teeth don’t touch the lower teeth, their movement becomes inefficient. And when the upper teeth don’t rest firmly against the base of the lower teeth, food begins sliding around in front of the real teeth. Without proper occlusion, even the strongest new bridge won’t last very long.
Since the goal of any bridge procedure is to ensure efficient chewing, it makes sense to start with a clear understanding of your own bite. Bite analysis involves a series of measurements taken with a special instrument called a bite registration material. During this process, the patient bites onto thin strips of blue or red plastic, which changes color as the material bends under pressure. From these measurements, a dental technician can determine where the upper and lower teeth meet. Once this information has been determined, the technician recommends a specific bridge design based upon the results of the bite analysis.
If you’re considering having a bridge constructed, make sure to ask your doctor to perform a thorough examination to rule out other conditions that could affect the outcome of the bridge procedure. Some common diseases associated with poor oral health include diabetes, HIV/AIDS, kidney disease, liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and cancers. People taking certain medications for medical reasons are also at increased risk for developing complications following a bridge procedure. These drugs include aspirin, anticoagulants and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory agents like ibuprofen. Smoking cigarettes doubles the chance of failure of a bridge.
Once you’ve decided on the type of bridge you want, your dentist needs to develop a plan for preparing your teeth so that the final product fits perfectly. Most of the work can be done while you wait, but sometimes your teeth need specialized cleaning to prepare them for bonding. Your dentist might also recommend getting braces fitted and wearing retainers until the bridge has been installed. Braces straighten crooked teeth, and retainers keep your jaw muscles relaxed so they don’t interfere with the placement of the bridge. Retainers are particularly important for those who wear removable partial appliances such as night guards and trays. They can cause problems with bridge retention because they shift around and loosen over time. Also, bridges generally need to be removed temporarily for procedures like root canal therapy or orthodontic treatments. Removing the bridge would interrupt the flow of saliva, leading to cavities and bacteria growth.
Bridge construction takes anywhere from several weeks to several months depending on the complexity of the case. Typically, however, the first step is to take impressions of your mouth. Impressions provide detailed drawings of the inside surface of your mouth, including gaps and spaces created by missing teeth, fillings, decay and other imperfections. Then, using this blueprint, your dentist creates a mold of your mouth specifically designed to accommodate the replacement teeth. Next, the dentist sends the model to the lab to create a physical copy of the bridge that he’ll bring back to your appointment. At this point, your dentist will review the results of the initial impression with you, discuss possible concerns, and formulate a treatment plan.
One of the biggest challenges facing patients is ensuring that their new bridge looks exactly right. Getting a custom-fitted set of replacements is critical to achieving the best look and feel. To accomplish this task, your dentist may want to consult with a laboratory technician who specializes in making castings. Casting technicians use precision tools and equipment to carve out negative spaces left by missing teeth and fill in other areas filled with composite resin. After the casting is finished, the technician adjusts its texture and color to match the surrounding teeth. Bridge laboratories typically charge extra for casting services, but they can be worth every penny if they result in a better smile.
Now that we’ve discussed how bridges are made, let’s learn how bridges are maintained.
Saving Money on Dentistry
To prevent unwanted accidents, it’s important to maintain your bridgework regularly. If you have metal clasps, you’ll need to clean them with warm water and soap to remove buildup and rust. Metal clasps should be checked annually to see if they are worn down. If they are, you’ll need to have them replaced. You’ll probably notice small cracks or chips in your fillings, too, especially if you grind or chip your teeth. Smaller cracks can easily be repaired, but larger ones need professional attention.
It’s also important to keep track of your bridgework. Make notes regarding appointments, adjustments, replacement parts, repairs and follow-ups. Keep receipts for materials and service fees. Documenting everything helps you remember details that you otherwise wouldn’t think about as you try to manage your condition.
Your dentist will likely send you home with a temporary bridge while you await completion of your permanent bridge. Temporary bridges are meant to give you the ability to chew and talk comfortably. While using them, you’ll need to brush your teeth twice daily with soft bristled brushes and floss at least once a day. Don’t smoke, eat spicy foods or rinse your mouth with alcohol. Avoid abrasive toothpastes, scrubbing pads and tongue scrapers. Using these products can irritate the gums and damage the newly inserted bridgework.
Temporary bridges should be removed after healing occurs. As soon as you realize that your temporary bridgework is ready for removal, schedule an appointment with your dentist. He or she will examine the area to see if any infection has developed, and if necessary, prescribe antibiotics to reduce the likelihood of infection. Your dentist may also order X-rays to check bone density and bone loss.
After removing your temporary bridgework, you’ll need to protect yourself from damaging bacteria and plaque buildups. Bacteria is responsible for gum inflammation and tartar formation, which lead to cavities and infections. Plaque, the sticky film of mucus and food particles that forms on our mouths, promotes bacterial growth. Good oral hygiene includes brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing and regular visits to the dentist.
Even though you don’t yet have your permanent bridgework, you still need to continue visiting your dentist regularly. Checkups are required every six months for the first year following installation of your permanent bridgework. After that, you’ll need to visit your dentist every 6 months for routine maintenance. Your dentist will also conduct yearly checks to make sure your bridgework stays secure and free of leaks or fractures.
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