Bridges refer to dental restorations that replace missing teeth. It is important to replace missing teeth to prevent shifting of the teeth, chewing problems, and obvious cosmetic concerns. Dentists usually think of bridges in terms of being permanently cemented, that is, non-removable . Patients sometimes group both removable appliances such as partial dentures with non-removable fixed bridges and refer to both as “bridges”. So for the sake of discussion, I will refer to non-removable dental restorations that replace missing teeth as fixed bridges and will refer to removable dental appliances that replace missing teeth as partial dentures (or full dentures if all the teeth in an arch are being replaced). Please check the “Services” list for a discussion on partial dentures.
The obvious advantage of a fixed bridge over a removable partial denture is that it is much easier to live with. A fixed bridge feels and looks just like natural teeth and is cleaned by brushing and flossing just like natural teeth. A removable partial denture must be removed from the mouth for cleaning daily. Wearing a partial denture requires some “getting used to” by the patient whereas a fixed bridge usually feels very natural from the moment it is cemented in place.
A fixed bridge uses natural teeth on either side of the missing teeth for support. The supporting natural teeth, known as abutments, are prepared in a fashion similar to a crown preparation. An impression is taken and a temporary acrylic bridge is then made and temporarily cemented in place while the new permanent bridge is being made by a dental lab. Fixed bridges are often made of porcelain bonded to metal and look just like natural teeth. On the second visit, the temporary bridge is removed, the permanent bridge is tried in and adjusted, and if everything is OK the bridge is permanently cemented onto the abutment teeth.