An alternative to missing tooth replacement is a fixed bridge (sometimes called a fixed partial denture.) This is a restoration that replaces or spans the space where one or more teeth have been lost. A fixed bridge is bonded or cemented into place—only a dentist can remove it.
Your appearance, dental health and the proper functioning of your mouth all are important reasons for wearing a fixed bridge. It helps maintain the natural shape of your face and may help support your lips and cheeks.
How a fixed bridge is attached
A fixed bridge is commonly cemented or bonded to the natural teeth next to the space left by the missing teeth. An artificial tooth (called a pontic) replaces the lost natural tooth, and restores its function. A pontic is attached to a crown (restoration that covers a tooth). Crowns, which are cemented to adjacent prepared teeth, serve as retainers that support the fixed bridge.
Different types of fixed bridges
A fixed bridge can be attached to your natural teeth. Different types of artificial teeth may be used in fixed bridges. These include gold, porcelain fused to metal, and all-porcelain. In some instances, a resin-bonded fixed bridge (sometimes called "Maryland Bridge") can be used to replace one or more missing teeth. Because it is attached by a special procedure called bonding, it doesn't require the use of crowns or extensive tooth preparation. Dr. Crawford can determine whether this treatment method is appropriate for you.
As its name describes, a removable bridge (sometimes called a removable partial denture) readily can be taken out of the mouth for cleaning. Although removable bridges generally are less expensive, fixed bridges, when indicated, may feel more stable and comfortable.
Depending on your situation, however, a removable bridge may be for you. Removable bridges usually have replacement teeth attached to gum-colored plastic bases connected by metal framework. They may attach to your natural teeth with metal clasps or devices called precision attachments. A claspless removable bridge, when indicated, may provide better support and aesthetics. Crowns on your natural teeth may improve the way a removable bridge fits your mouth. Ask Dr. Crawford which type is right for you.
Growing accustomed to a removable bridge
Inserting and removing the new removable bridge takes some practice. It may feel awkward for the first few weeks. However, your mouth eventually should become accustomed to it. The bridge should fit into place with relative ease.
Dr. Crawford can explain how long the removable bridge should be worn and when it should be removed. At the start, you may be asked to wear it for the first 24 hours. While this may temporarily cause discomfort, it is the quickest way to identify any parts requiring adjustment. If the bridge puts too much pressure on one area, that spot will become sore. Dr. Crawford can adjust the bridge to fit more comfortably. Once adjusted, Dr. Crawford may recommend that you remove the bridge before going to sleep and replace it when you awaken.
Once you're missing teeth are replaced, eating should be a more pleasant experience. Since missing teeth can make it difficult to speak clearly, wearing a removable bridge can help with that, too.
Over time, as you age and your mouth changes, your removable bridge may no longer fit well. It could also break, crack, chip or one of the teeth could loosen. In many instances, Dr. Crawford can make the necessary adjustment or repairs, often on the same day. However, complicated repairs may take longer.
Advantages of removable bridge over fixed bridge:
- Usually easier to repair
- Usually less expensive
- Removable bridges can be less stable than alternative choices
- They can break or be lost
- Some people find removable bridges uncomfortable
- Some people are embarrassed to take out their teeth at night and for cleaning