How do bridges work?
A bridge replaces one or more missing teeth and enables you to avoid a chain reaction of problems that could later affect your entire mouth. Teeth need each other for support. When teeth are lost, the biting force changes on the teeth next to the empty space, and they begin to shift out of position. When a tooth in the opposite arch no longer has something to chew against, it begins to slowly "grow" out of the socket, creating additional problems that could eventually cause you to lose the tooth.
As your bite changes, it's also much harder to chew your food; this can lead to jaw-joint (TMJ) problems. And keeping teeth that have shifted free of plaque is much more difficult, so it's more likely that tartar (also called calculus) will build-up in these new hard-to-reach places, resulting in decay, gum disease, and bone loss. By preventing these long-term problems, a dental bridge plays an important role in improving your smile and protecting your overall dental health.
How is an implant used in a bridge?
A bridge uses abutments on each side to support and anchor it. Ordinarily, adjacent teeth provide this support, requiring the removal of healthy tooth structure to prepare the teeth to hold the bridge. Implants support a bridge without affecting the surrounding teeth, so you retain the natural color, shape and strength of these healthy adjacent teeth.
Implants are surgically-placed titanium cylinders that serve as artificial tooth roots in the bone of your jaw. Several implants are placed in your jaw, depending on the size of the gap. In some cases the bridge may be cemented in place while in other cases screws provide the retention.
What happens during the procedure?
The first step in placing implants is a thorough exam including X-rays. This allows us to make sure you have adequate bone in your jaw to support the implants. Then impressions are taken and models of your mouth are created so precise measurements and the optimum target location for implants can be pinpointed.
The process of placing your implants and eventually placing the bridge usually requires multiple appointments, spread over several months. We begin by placing the implants in your jaw and leaving them submerged below the gums during the healing phase. Months later, after the implants have healed completely, we re-expose them and begin another series of appointments that end with the placement of your new bridge.