Along with the practical difficulties missing teeth can cause, gaps can leave patients feeling self-conscious about their smiles. A bridge (actually called fixed partial denture) is a device which fills the gap where teeth are absent and constitute one of the two ways to replace a missing tooth with something that is “fixed,” meaning it is not removable. Fixed bridges are bonded into place and can only be removed by a dental professional. Removable bridges, as the name implies, can be taken out and cleaned. Fixed bridges offer more stability than their removable counterparts.
If a tooth is missing, and there are reliable teeth present on each side of the space, a bridge is an ideal option.
In the case of a bridge, the teeth on either side of the space are shaped to receive crowns. A solid, three-unit piece is fabricated that is cemented onto the two end teeth (called abutment teeth). The resulting cemented restoration looks, acts, and feels like three teeth where there is actually only two. Bridges can also be fabricated as four-unit, five-unit, or even six-unit restorations when more teeth are missing.
Bridges are ideal when the abutment teeth would benefit from crown coverage. Bridges are avoided if the abutment teeth have never received any fillings or other dental treatment. In this case, a dental implant represents a much more conservative option. With implant supported tooth replacement, the adjacent natural teeth are not altered.
Bridges can be made to look extremely real, blending naturally with the patients other teeth.