Check us out on YouTube as we talk teeth #watchyourmouthSpanish
Check us out on YouTube as we talk teeth #watchyourmouthSpanish

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Dental Bridges (But Should!)

Bridges are a common solution for replacing missing teeth, but there may be some things you don’t know about Bridges that I want to share with you. In this video. Today we’re talking about the 5 things you may not know about Dental Bridges. 

# 1 They Might Not Be Your Long Term Solution

So the first thing you may not know is that while we designed dental bridges to last a long time, they may not be your final long-term solution. There are lots of reasons why dental bridges fail and why we have to replace them. One of those things I want to go over is the main causes of those failures. 

Primarily speaking, in a good practice with healthy patients who take care of their mouths the average lifespan of a dental bridge at about 7-10 years, we have about 85% of those bridges are still successful in place, healthy and the patient’s happy. Once we get to that 15-20-year mark, the success rate drops down to about 75%. So that’s something to kind of keep in mind when you’re looking at doing a bridge as an option to replace missing teeth. 

Having said that, in our practice, we have bridges that I’ve seen that have been placed for 40 years and look just as good as the day they were placed. So as long as you have a good healthy mouth and you go to an experienced dentist who knows what they’re doing, and you use a lab that uses quality materials, there really is no set lifespan on a bridge. But a lot of times there are reasons why we have to replace them or redo them. 

Decay or Cavities Under the Bridge

One of the primary reasons why bridges fail and we have to redo them is decay or cavities under the edge of the bridge. So when we put the bridge in, we design it so that it goes right to the gum tissue, so it looks like natural teeth. In a minute I’ll go over kind of the ins and outs and parts and pieces of a bridge, but just keep in mind that when we make a bridge, we want it to look flush with the natural tissue, so it looks like every tooth is there so to the outside observer, when you smile, it just looks like you have all your teeth. Now the problem is when we make that bridge over time, as we age, we lose a little bit of bone and a little bit of tissue. Natural recession occurs in everybody. And when this happens, as that bone drops down a little bit, the tissue will drop with it and will follow it as well. 

You all of a sudden start to develop a gap or a space between the edge of the fake tooth and the natural bone or tissue. Now, a lot of times it’s not an aesthetic concern and it’s not a problem, but if it’s in the front or if it’s in an area where you’re trapping food, that could be a reason why we have to replace the bridge. 

Decay Can Start to Develop on the Gum Line

Another reason is that decay can start to develop right at the gum line. So when we make a bridge, we cover the tooth and the tissue and bone cover the root structure. Unfortunately, as that tissue and bone pulls back, that root structure is exposed, and unfortunately, the root structure is not as strong and not as defensive to the natural oral cavity. So it’s a little bit more prone to decay and breakdown. So sometimes if you have a little cavity right at the edge of your bridge, we can go in there and take that cavity out, kind of patched up with a nice small tooth-colored filling. Sometimes, however, that decay will sneak under the bridge and get to an area that we can’t get to. The only way we can get to that decay is to remove the bridge, take out the decay, and at that point we have to make a brand new bridge. 

#2 The Mouth is a Tough Environment

Another reason that bridges need to be replaced is that the mouth is a very tough environment. So there’s a lot of wear and tear, a lot of hot, a lot of cold, a lot of minor movement of the teeth and not to mention diet and what we eat, it can really wreak havoc on some of the materials. Even though we’re at the point now where we use some really strong durable materials, gold, the porcelains that we have now are very, very strong and very resistant to the mouth and the environment. 

Unfortunately, sometimes if you do bite something really hard or get something at the exact right angle, you can shear off some porcelain. And so what that generally looks like is for the older style of bridges where you have a metal substructure, all of a sudden you’ll see some gray. So what that looks like is all of a sudden your bridge that was nice and beautiful and tooth-colored all of a sudden has a small dark spot, or it’s a hole that doesn’t look right and doesn’t feel like it could be rough to your tongue, it could cut your cheek, but the majority of those are more aesthetic concerns. 

We have many patients who have older bridges where they’ve lost a little bit of porcelain, something’s broken off, but the most important thing is that the metal substructure underneath is sealed. It’s protecting the tooth. So as long as it’s not an aesthetic concern or a food trapping concern, a lot of times we can just monitor those and they don’t immediately require replacement of the bridge. Now, having said that, if it’s in the aesthetic zone, a front tooth anywhere where it’s not doing the job of making it look nice and functioning, or if it’s in a spot between teeth where you’re trapping food, you run the risk of getting decay and then having to lose the whole bridge. At that point, I would definitely recommend replacing the bridge with a new one that has the proper contours and aesthetic functions. 

#3 They Require Special Attention and Care

The second thing you may not know about dental bridges is that they actually require a little bit more special attention and care with your dental hygiene to maintain the health of the area. 

So even though you’ve lost a tooth, you need to keep cleaning the teeth because when we put a bridge on there, all of a sudden we’re creating some little small nooks and crannies that you weren’t able to get to before. So it’s really important that once you get that bridge, you talk to your dental care team because they can show you little tips and techniques, whether that’s floss threaders, whether it’s go-betweens, ways that you can get in there and really stimulate that tissue because if you don’t do a good job of cleaning out any food debris from the little small spots, all of a sudden that food stays there, it turns too acidic, it starts to eat away tooth structure, and then we’re back in that situation where all of a sudden you’ve got a cavity under your new bridge, and hopefully we can get to it and just patch it up with the filling but a lot of times it does involve having to take that bridge off. 

Increase Your Oral Hygiene Habits a Bit More

So the take-home message is you will have to increase your oral hygiene techniques and habits a little bit more. We’re not talking about going from four minutes a day to 20 minutes a day, but it’s a good extra 30 seconds. And once you get good at it, you’ll learn the ins and outs and you’ll be able to really get in there quick and everybody’s mouth is different, but things like water, flossers, swishing with Listerine do a really good job of getting in those spaces that just your toothbrush is not going to be able to clean out. 

#4 They Can Affect Your Speech and Eating Habits 

The third thing you may not know about dental bridges is that they can actually affect your speech and your eating habits. Now, usually we say that because they affect them in a good way. So you’re missing teeth, your adjacent teeth are going to start to shift and going to start to move. Whether that means the top tooth coming down into that space or it means somebody leaning into their neighbor’s space when you need a bridge, there’s a good chance your teeth are not in an ideal orientation and lineup. And what I always tell my patients is that the tongue and cheeks are very greedy. They want to take up as much space as possible. So when you’re missing a tooth, your tongue’s going to kind of expand into that area. Your cheeks going to kind of get used to dropping in there. So when we come in and we put a bridge, we not only replace the missing tooth, but we also like to idolize the location and the biting angulation of the teeth that are supporting that bridge. 

So what that means is if you’ve had a missing tooth, especially for a long time, you’ve gotten used to where your tongue goes, you’ve gotten used to where your cheeks are, and the tongue is very important in speech, whether it’s the S sounds, the P sounds, your tongue has learned, where it can lie and where it can rest, and where it needs to kind of go to make those noises. So all of a sudden we put this new bridge in, and especially if it’s a long-span bridge or a really big bridge, it’s going to take some adjusting. 

Now the nice thing is 99.9% of the time, the mouth adjusts really quickly. The worst thing we have is sometimes you get a little bit of cheek biting or tongue biting because all of a sudden where your tongue could rest when your teeth came together, there’s no longer space anymore. 

Same thing with the cheek. The cheek likes to dive in there, and so we kind of push the cheek out of the way, and it takes a little while for it to kind of learn its new boundaries. But the most important thing is I always tell patients, reading out loud, talking in the mirror, it doesn’t matter if you’re a horrible singer. Singing is great because it takes you through all the ranges of the vocal foundations of where your tongue is, where your cheeks are, where your lips are, and even if you’re just reading something on the internet or reading a newspaper, just sit there and read it out loud. It doesn’t matter how you don’t have to pay attention to what you’re saying, you’re just kind of training your mouth and tongue to relearn their boundaries. 

#5 What You Should Eat

Bridges are great. They’re very similar to crowns. They’re made out of really hard, strong materials and like I said, the porcelain is very friendly to depose teeth. So for all intents and purposes, you’re free to eat whatever you would eat before you had a bridge. But the big caveat I would warn you against is ice. I know a lot of people love chewing ice, especially that little nugget of ice. I’m guilty of it sometimes myself, but ice is really, really damaging to the teeth and the porcelain that we put on bridges. And the main reason is it causes contraction of the teeth and of the porcelain. And anytime you’re putting a lot of force on something that’s not in the state it’s supposed to be, you can chip and shear it off, whether that’s natural teeth or porcelain. So while it’s good for business for us, unfortunately, it’s bad for your teeth. So I definitely recommend not chewing ice.