If you're missing some teeth or have some that need to be extracted due to damage or decay, a traditional dental bridge is one of the treatments your dentist may recommend. Leaving a gap where you have missing teeth can seriously alter your jawbone and facial structure, so it's imperative to have an implant, bridge or partial to fill in the empty space. The process for placing a traditional bridge typically takes three appointments.
The First Appointment: The Assessment
Your first dental appointment will involve your dentist taking a look at your mouth and deciding if a bridge is a viable option for you. It begins with a thorough visual examination and X-rays of the jaw and your other teeth, to make sure you're a good candidate. A traditional bridge relies on healthy teeth on both sides of the gap, for the bridge to fill.
The Second Appointment: Preparation and Placing a Temporary Bridge
Once you and your dentist have decided to go ahead with the bridge, your next appointment will involve preparing your teeth for the bridge and possibly placing a temporary bridge in the gap, while you wait to have the permanent bridge fitted.
You'll get a local anesthetic to numb the area around the gap. Your dentist will then file the abutment teeth (the teeth on either side of the space) to the correct shape for the bridge. After your teeth are shaped properly, the next step is to make an impression of them to send to a dental laboratory that will custom-make your bridge for a perfect fit. Your dentist will also take a sample color from your natural teeth so that the bridge will match your surrounding teeth for a more natural appearance.
Many patients have a temporary bridge made out of filling material placed during this appointment, to protect your teeth from any damage that could alter the shape your dentist created while filing them. You'll wear this temporary bridge until the lab finishes making your permanent bridge and you have your final appointment.
The Third Appointment: Placing the Permanent Bridge
As soon as the dental lab is finished making your bridge, you'll head back to the dentist for your third appointment to have it placed. Your dentist will give you a local anesthetic, so you don't experience any pain during the procedure. If you had a temporary bridge, your dentist will remove it and clean your teeth. Dental cement is used to place the permanent bridge in place and secure it to the abutment teeth.
You'll most likely need some time to adjust to the feeling of the bridge when you bite down on your teeth and eat. If you experience any pain or discomfort, your dentist may have you come back for another appointment, to check the fit and make any necessary final adjustments.
Discuss any concerns you have with your dentist, before your appointments, and make sure to follow aftercare instructions carefully to reduce the risk of complications or problems with your new bridge after your final appointment.