If at all possible, we want to save a tooth — it’s the best outcome for your overall dental health. In many cases, we can achieve this by filling the tooth or installing a crown over it.
Unfortunately, preservation isn’t always possible if the natural tooth has been irreparably weakened by decay or trauma. Replacing the natural tooth with a life-like artificial one is the next best option: the replacement will help you regain lost function and reinvigorate your smile. Filling the missing tooth’s space also prevents neighboring teeth from drifting into it, causing further problems with function and appearance.
Dental implants are widely recognized as the best choice for tooth replacement because of their life-like qualities, durability and positive effect on bone health. Even their biggest drawback, their cost, isn’t that great an issue if you factor in their longevity — they may actually result in less dental expense over the long-term.
A dental implant, however, isn’t always a viable option. Some patients may not have enough bone mass to support an implant. Those with certain systemic diseases like uncontrolled diabetes or a weakened immune system may not be able to undergo dental implant surgery.
Fortunately, many of these patients can benefit from a fixed bridge, a restoration option that’s been used for decades. A bridge is a series of life-like crowns permanently joined like pickets in a fence. The middle crown known as the “pontic” fills the empty space left by the missing tooth. The crowns on either side of the pontic are permanently attached to the natural teeth that border the missing tooth space. Known also as “abutment” teeth, they serve as the support for the bridge.
Bridges do have one downside — the abutment teeth must be prepared by filing them down so the new crowns fit over them properly. This will permanently alter and possibly weaken the teeth. Dental implants, on the other hand, have little to no effect on adjacent teeth.
Still, a bridge remains an effective option for many people. Properly cared for, a bridge can restore function as well as enhance your smile for many years to come.
If you would like more information on bridgework as a restorative option, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Crowns & Bridgework.”