Bridges or Dentures - Which is Best ?

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What is a Dental Bridge?

If you have missing teeth but still have healthy teeth on either side of the gap you may wish to have a bridge. The equivalent solution in dentures would be a partial denture (the plate that fits into your mouth with teeth attached where there are gaps). There are three main types of dental bridge, and your dentist or denturist will let you know which is best suited to the problems that you have. All serve the same purpose of ‘bridging’ a gap between two teeth but the type that you have is dependant on where in your mouth you are missing teeth and on the condition of the two teeth that will be either side of the bridge. The following will run through the three main types and explain how they differ to each other and to dentures.

Traditional Fixed Bridge

This is the most common type of bridge that people have. A false tooth is at the centre of the tooth, this is called a pontic tooth. On either side of the pontic tooth are crowns, which are effectively caps to fit over the teeth on either side of the gap. These three pieces are bonded together and this unit is called a bridge. Because these may be slightly larger than your original teeth the teeth either side of the gap will usually need to be sculpted by the dentist – this means that parts of the enamel may be shaved off so that when the bridge is fitted in your mouth it will not feel too large and affect your speech or cause discomfort. Once bonded in this bridge is permanent and should not be removed. One of the benefits is that it does not require extractions or extensive dental surgery and it is also suitable for people with tooth fillings, as these can act as bases for the crowns on either side of the pontic tooth.

Resin Bonded Bridge

With this type of bridge the pontic tooth is attached with resin cement and small metal bands to the two original teeth either side of it. It is not as suitable for people with fillings or unhealthy teeth because it relies on the strength of the surrounding teeth to hold the pontic tooth in place. The advantages however are that it does not require the sculpting of the surrounding teeth and that it is generally cheaper than a traditional fixed bridge. Compared to dentures this option might be better if you have just one tooth lost by trauma but if your have a problem with your whole mouth and have a poor dental condition you may be better having a more substantial solution such as dentures. Typically these are used for front teeth or teeth near the front of the mouth that aren’t put under pressure from chewing.

Cantilever Bridges

Cantilever bridges also tend to be used for teeth that aren’t stressed when chewing food. They attach in a similar way to the resin bonded bridge but they are designed to require only one tooth to attach to. They are suitable if you only have a healthy tooth on one side of the gap, but again require the anchor tooth to be good and strong. This solves a similar problem to dentures and with less maintenance, but it may not be suitable if you are missing more than one or two teeth.

Overall bridges require less maintenance than dentures and you would be advised to get a new one every 8-10 years rather than the recommended every 5-10 for dentures. However, a partial denture may be able to solve the same problem without requiring any change to the healthy teeth in your mouth. Dentures are also able to correct much more serious aesthetic dental issues.

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