This may seem surprising, but roughly 70% of Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 are missing at least one tooth. Initially, the person may have planned to have the missing tooth replaced. But time went by, and the need seemed to diminish, along with the desire to part with the requisite money. Now the person simply has a gap, either in their smile or in their bite.
So, what’s the big deal, right? It’s just a single tooth or a couple of teeth.
Dr. Steier is a big proponent of replacing missing teeth. Here’s why. First, if the missing tooth is in a visible location, it can cause a person to sub-consciously avoid smiling to cover the flaw. Second, no matter where the gap, the adjacent teeth try to slide over and fill the gap. This is because there is no longer any pressure keeping the teeth in place. Think of it as the stadium effect when a person in the bleachers go to get a drink — the people on each side of the empty seat slide over into space. In your mouth, this movement can seriously mess up not only the alignment of your teeth but your bite. Third, missing teeth above mean deteriorating jawbone below. Without teeth to transfer bite force energy down into the jawbone below, that jawbone tends to deteriorate over time.
A bridge is an effective way for Dr. Steier to fill that gap and maintain your smile and your bite.
What can be done with a bridge?
While in a car we may use a bridge to get over to Ocean Boulevard, in your mouth a bridge can be used to restore one, two, or three missing teeth in a row. The superior method for replacing teeth is dental implants, but in the case of a couple missing teeth, many patients opt instead to have a bridge.
A bridge is made up of an artificial tooth, also called a pontic, which is surrounded on each side by a crown. The crowns are placed atop the healthy teeth on both sides of the gap. These are called the abutment teeth. Porcelain and porcelain fused to metal are the most common materials in dental bridges. For most bridges, the entire prosthetic is made as a single piece.
Other types of bridges
The bridge described above, with a healthy tooth on each side of the missing teeth is called a traditional bridge. But there are other types of bridges for different situations.
- Cantilever bridge— This type of bridge is similar to a traditional bridge, but is used in cases where there is only support on one side of the bridge (for instance when a person is missing a back molar). Usually, two consecutive teeth are crowned on the one side. Think of it as a balcony rather than a bridge.
- Resin-bonded bridge— Unlike bridges where crowns hold the pontic between, in this type of bridge metal bands and dental bonding resin attach the pontic to the adjacent teeth. The metal bands are positioned on the backside of the support teeth to make them less noticeable. This type of bridge is usually used to fill a gap in the front teeth.
- Implant-supported bridges— In these bridges, one or more titanium implants are placed into the jawbone where they fuse into the bone. These implants then provide the support for the bridge. Dr. Steier loves these types of bridges because they offer the most strength to the patient.