A dental bridge is a fixed appliance used to replace one or more missing teeth by spanning the space between the surrounding natural teeth. Dental bridges are commonly used to replace one or more missing teeth in order to restore your smile, enable proper chewing and speaking, distribute the biting force evenly across your mouth, and help maintain the shape of your face and prevent remaining teeth from shifting position.
While dental bridges allow you to chew and eat normally, you do need to be careful with the forces applied to avoid damaging or dislodging the bridge. Chewing on hard or sticky foods, grinding your teeth, and certain harmful oral habits can potentially put too much pressure on the bridge and cause problems. Knowing how to properly care for your bridge is important for ensuring it lasts as long as possible.
What is a dental bridge?
A dental bridge consists of one or more artificial teeth (false teeth) called pontics that are fused between two crowns that fit over the adjacent natural teeth or implants. The two anchoring teeth are called abutment teeth. Fixed bridges are made of either porcelain fused to metal, ceramics, gold alloys, or a combination of these materials. Porcelain and ceramic bridges more closely resemble natural tooth color.
Components of a dental bridge
– Pontic – the artificial tooth/teeth that replaces the missing tooth/teeth
– Abutment – the natural tooth or implant that supports each end of the bridge
– Crown – a covering that is placed on top of the abutment teeth
The abutment teeth on each end provide support, and the pontic replaces the missing tooth/teeth in between. The crowns that are placed over the abutments provide anchorage for the pontic.
Bridges can be made with traditional metal alloys, porcelain fused to metal, ceramics, or a combination of these materials. Porcelain and ceramic bridges more closely resemble natural tooth color compared to metal bridges.
Types of dental bridges
There are different types of dental bridges classified by the way they are fabricated:
– Traditional fixed bridges: This type is made of porcelain, porcelain fused to metal, or metal alloys. It is the most popular and cost effective type.
– Cantilever bridges: Used when there are abutment teeth on only one side of the space. The pontic extends from the abutment teeth on one side.
– Maryland bonded bridges: Uses a metal or porcelain framework bonded to the back of the adjacent teeth. Less expensive option but not recommended for use in the back teeth.
– Implant-supported bridges: Uses implants as abutments instead of natural teeth. These provide more support but are more expensive.
Can you chew with a dental bridge?
Yes, you can definitely chew while you have a dental bridge in place. Getting dental bridges constructed allows you to restore your ability to chew and bite properly using the pontic artificial teeth fused between abutments. However, you do need to be careful and avoid putting too much pressure on the bridge when eating certain foods or using improper chewing techniques.
Chewing guidelines with a dental bridge
When chewing with a dental bridge, follow these guidelines:
– Avoid very hard, crunchy, chewy, sticky foods: Things like raw carrots, nuts, bagels, taffy, ice, popcorn kernels can put too much force on the bridge.
– Cut larger pieces of food into smaller bites: Cutting food into smaller pieces reduces the amount of force placed on the bridge while chewing.
– Avoid chewing hard items like pens, pencils or fingernails: Remove any harmful oral habits like grinding, clenching, or chewing on hard non-food objects.
– Chew evenly on both sides of your mouth: Don’t favor one side as it will put more stress on the bridge.
– Take small bites and chew slowly: Taking smaller bites and chewing thoroughly until food is soft will minimize pressure on the bridge.
– Avoid chewing hard foods directly on the bridgework: If you need to chew something hard or crunchy, chew it carefully using your back teeth on the opposite side of your bridge if possible.
Following these simple precautions while chewing with your dental bridge will help prevent damage and allow it to last many years. Let your dentist know if you experience any loosening, discomfort or changes with the bridgework so it can be evaluated.
Why do you need to be careful chewing with a bridge?
You need to be careful when chewing with a dental bridge because it is important to avoid putting excessive biting forces on the bridge which could lead to problems.
Some key reasons to be cautious when chewing with a bridge include:
Can damage or dislodge the bridge
Chewing excessively hard foods like nuts, raw vegetables, bagels or ice can exert too much force on the cement retaining the crowns, abutments and pontic. This can potentially loosen or dislodge the bridge.
Can break or fracture the pontic
The materials making up the false tooth/teeth in the bridge can chip or fracture if exposed to repeated biting and chewing forces that are too great. Porcelain and ceramic bridges are particularly prone to fracturing.
Can harm the abutment teeth
Too much downward pressure while chewing can damage the abutment teeth that support the bridge. These need to remain healthy to keep the bridge stable.
Can cause discomfort in teeth or gums
Improper chewing techniques or putting too much force in certain areas can lead to pain or discomfort from the bridge placing excessive pressure on your gums or natural teeth.
Can shorten longevity of the bridge
Trauma to the bridge from improper chewing will likely decrease the lifespan of the restoration. Being careful while eating helps your dental bridge last as long as possible.
Proper chewing technique with a bridge
Using proper chewing technique is important for keeping your dental bridge intact and avoiding damage or discomfort when eating. Follow these chewing guidelines:
– Chew evenly on both sides of your mouth
– Take small bites of food and chew completely
– Allow food to rest on both sides of the bridge when chewing
– Avoid chewing hard or sticky foods directly on the bridgework
– Cut up harder foods into small pieces before eating
– Swallow food particles before taking the next bite
– Avoid chewing ice, pens, nails or other hard non-food objects
– Brush and floss carefully after eating to remove debris
Letting food rest equally on all sides while chewing distributes the biting forces evenly and prevents overloading one area. Taking small bites and chewing thoroughly prevents putting excess force on the bridge.
Be especially careful chewing for the first several weeks after your bridge is placed while you adjust to the feel. Avoiding very hard or sticky foods helps prevent damage.
Foods to avoid with a dental bridge
While dental bridges allow you to eat normally, some types of foods can potentially damage or dislodge your bridge if you are not careful while chewing them. Foods to avoid or minimize include:
Hard, crunchy foods
– Raw vegetables like carrots, celery, broccoli stems
– Nuts and seeds like almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds
– Hard tortilla chips, croutons
– Popcorn kernels
– Crusty breads like baguettes, bagels
Chewy, sticky foods
– Taffy, caramels, gum
– Licorice, fruit roll-ups, dried fruit leathers
– Sticky granola bars
– Ice cubes or crushed ice
– Hard mints
Either avoid these foods or take small bites and chew them carefully on your back teeth. Cut up harder foods into small pieces before eating.
What if you have problems after the bridge placement?
In the days and weeks after your dental bridge placement, pay attention to how your mouth feels while eating and contact your dentist if you experience:
Discomfort or pain in your teeth or gums
Let your dentist know if you feel any persistent discomfort or pain around the abutment teeth or bridge area from the pressures of chewing. The bite may need adjustment.
Loosening of the bridge
If the bridge itself feels loose or you can detect loosening of the abutment crowns, this could indicate bonding failure and needs evaluation.
Chipped or fractured pontic
Small fractures in the false tooth/teeth of the bridge may progress. Get them checked right away before more significant damage occurs.
Sensitivity to hot or cold
Let your dentist know if you suddenly experience any sensitivity in abutment teeth or gums around the bridge.
Swelling or infection
Swelling, redness, pain, or pus around the abutment teeth may indicate infection that needs treatment.
Difficulty speaking or chewing
Trouble speaking properly or difficult, uncomfortable chewing could mean the bridge needs adjustment for proper bite alignment.
Notify your dentist promptly if you experience any problems with your dental bridge so it can be evaluated and corrected. Following good oral hygiene and chewing habits will help avoid many issues.
Oral hygiene with a bridge
Practicing excellent oral hygiene is critical when you have a dental bridge to help prevent problems. Bridge hygiene tips:
– Brush at least twice daily including under and around the bridge
– Floss at least once daily by sliding the floss through the contact point of the bridge
– Use interdental cleaners to remove debris from under the false tooth
– Rinse daily with antibacterial mouthwash
– Have regular dental cleanings every 6 months
– Watch for tooth decay or gum infection around abutments
– Avoid snacking frequently between meals
Be sure to brush and floss around the entire bridge each day, not just the exposed crown portion. Pay special attention to flossing under the false tooth where food debris easily collects.
Regular dental visits allow your dentist to inspect for issues like caries, gum disease, or material fractures that could jeopardize your restoration. Proper cleaning and checkups help ensure the bridge lasts many years.
How long do dental bridges last?
With proper placement, good oral hygiene at home, and avoidance of damage from clenching/grinding or chewing forceful foods, dental bridges can last many years. However, they do not last forever and will eventually need replacement.
Average bridge lifespan
The average lifespan of dental bridges is typically 5-15 years. However, individual lifespan varies based on factors like:
– Bridge material
– Amount of chewing force applied
– Oral hygiene habits
– Oral habits like grinding teeth
– Health of abutment teeth and gums
Well-made bridges that are properly cared for can last 10-15 years or even longer in some cases. With poor hygiene or excessive forces, they may only last 5 years before needing replacement.
Reasons bridges may need replacement
Reasons a dental bridge may eventually need replacement include:
– Decay around abutment teeth if poor oral hygiene
– Periodontal disease damaging abutment teeth
– Wear, chipping, or fracture of the pontic
– Loosening of the cement and bridge components
– Mechanical failure from biting forces over time
– Abutment teeth need extraction
Getting bridges replaced before they completely fail helps prevent additional tooth loss. Routine dental exams help detect issues early.
Alternatives to conventional dental bridges
While fixed bridges are a common tooth replacement choice, there are also some other options if a traditional bridge is not ideal:
Removable partial dentures
Removable acrylic and metal dentures can replace multiple missing teeth on a removable frame that is taken out to clean each day. More affordable but less stable than fixed bridges.
Flexible partial dentures
Made of a flexible resin material that is thinner and more comfortable than conventional removable dentures. Used when fixed bridges are not possible.
Dental implants act as abutments for an implant bridge, providing excellent stability. More costly than regular bridges but do not rely on adjacent teeth.
Maryland bonded bridges
Uses a resin-bonded framework on the back of adjacent teeth to support the false tooth. A minimally invasive option when other bridges are not feasible.
The best bridge option depends on your specific case, oral health, and budget. Discuss options with your dentist if a traditional fixed bridge does not seem optimal.
Benefits of dental bridges
When missing teeth are replaced with dental bridges, whether traditional or alternative designs, there are many benefits:
Bridges can restore the natural smile line and volume lost when teeth are missing. Esthetics are improved compared to gaps between teeth.
Enables proper chewing
Replacing missing teeth allows food to be chewed more evenly on both sides for optimal mastication and nutrition.
Corrects bite alignment
Properly constructed bridges restore correct bite relationships and chewing function.
Prevents tooth shifting
Teeth adjacent to gaps can tilt and drift over time. Bridges prevent this by anchoring the space.
Distributes forces evenly
Chewing forces are spread widely with a bridge, decreasing risk of problems with the remaining teeth.
Stabilizes loose teeth
Anchoring pontics on either side provides stability to loose teeth.
Replacing missing teeth helps speech, which can be impeded by gaps.
Though somewhat more involved than single crowns, bridges effectively restore large spans when multiple teeth are missing. With proper home care and regular dental visits, they can provide lasting function and aesthetics.
Dental bridges allow you to chew and eat normally after tooth loss. However, you need to be careful when chewing on bridgework to avoid damaging from excessive biting forces. Avoid very hard, sticky, crunchy foods. Take small bites, chew evenly and carefully on both sides, and cut up larger pieces. Practicing good oral hygiene and having regular dental checkups helps ensure your bridge lasts as long as possible. Tell your dentist promptly if you have any problems or discomfort from your dental bridge so it can be adjusted or repaired. Following proper care guidelines helps your bridge provide lasting benefits for chewing, smile esthetics and oral health.