Dental bridges are used to replace a missing tooth or teeth that are adjacent to other teeth. The bridge is supported by your natural teeth and fixed in place. Traditional dental bridges consist of two crowns on either side of the missing tooth or teeth, and a false tooth between the crowns. The two crowns are called the abutments and the false tooth is called the pontic.
As illustrated in the above diagram, a single missing tooth exists between two natural teeth. Your dentist will 'prepare' these natural teeth for the placement of a bridge. Retentive features are placed to assure the retention of the bridge. These retentive features include grooves on the front of the teeth as illustrated above. Your dentist will then take an impression of your teeth in order to custom fit a bridge. A temporary bridge is then placed. This impression is sent to a dental laboratory for processing along with instructions such as the color or shade of your teeth. Upon returning, your temporary will be removed and your permanent bridge, custom made for your teeth, is then cemented in place.
Dental bridges will help sustain the natural appearance of your teeth and prevent drifting of teeth. If a missing tooth is not taken care of, your adjacent teeth will drift into the open area. This can complicate matters as severe drifting may rule out the placement of a bridge. Other alternate treatments can then be considered such as removable dentures or implants.
As with dental crowns, there are many types of materials used to construct dental bridges. Traditional bridges are made of a porcelain fused to metal (PFM) material. Other types of materials can be used such as all gold or resin materials. Each tooth is unique and may require a specific material according to your bite or other restorations present. Your dentist will give you the best diagnosis for your individual needs.