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The Challenges of Long Dental Bridges

If you are missing several teeth, it’s important to consider all your tooth replacement options. One of these replacement options is a dental bridge. A dental bridge uses your natural teeth to support replacement teeth. And in many cases they are a great solution. They can look very attractive and are fixed in your mouth, so they’re always in place when you smile. They’re not going to come out when you talk or laugh. They can let you chew with full strength, and they don’t require surgery to place a dental implant.

However, there are many reasons why we may not recommend this type of tooth replacement for a large span of missing teeth and favor dental implants instead. Here are some of the most important.

Loss of Bone and Gums

A dental bridge doesn’t directly attach to your jawbone. Instead, it attaches to your teeth, which are attached to the jawbone. Without teeth to stimulate the jawbone in the area of the span, the body removes what it perceives as “unnecessary” bone. This can cause the jawbone to collapse. When the jawbone collapses, the gums have no support and they collapse, too, which can leave a large gap under your dental bridge.

Not Quite Full Bite Force

We usually describe a dental bridge as allowing you to bite and chew normally so you can eat all your favorite foods. This is true for short bridges, but the longer the bridge, the more you might notice a loss of chewing strength.

If there’s a long span with no teeth underneath the bridge, the bridge is actually being supported by its own rigidity, which may not be enough. It will flex (or break) and that will put the bite force on your gums. So these long bridges really have a bite force somewhere between natural teeth and removable dentures. It’s a substantial improvement, but it’s not the same as an implant bridge.

Excess Force on the Bridge

When you’re biting down and causing the bridge to flex, this can stress and damage the bridge. The materials used in dental bridges are very hard and strong, but it can also be very inflexible, making it more likely to break under these forces.

Even if a bridge is reinforced with metal inside, the ceramic on the outside is not tolerant to flexing, and it can flake off.

Excess Force on Teeth

Your teeth are capable of supporting your normal bite force because they divide the force among themselves. Distributed among the twenty or thirty teeth in a healthy, normal mouth, it’s a reasonable amount of force. But when you have just four or six teeth doing the work of 14 or 16, the forces may be a bit much. And they’re not quite like normal bite forces, either. Instead of coming straight down, they torque and turn in the direction of the unsupported part of the bridge. This puts stress on the tooth that it’s not as able to deal with, and may lead to the failure of supporting teeth.

Implant Bridges Solve These Problems

The good news is that you don’t have to tolerate these problems anymore, because we have implant dentures, which are a better option, especially for long bridges.

Dental implants can be distributed evenly throughout your jaw to stimulate your jawbone. This helps maintain a healthy jawbone and gums. And because the implants are spaced evenly, they distribute the forces evenly so there’s less flexing in the bridge: it’s more solid. With less flexing, there’s less risk that inflexible dental materials will break.

Dental implants may be less likely to fail in these situations than natural teeth. Distributed placement keeps the force coming at the right angle for the implants--straight up and down as much as possible. And the strength of the implants themselves means that fewer implants are needed to properly support a bridge.

Which is not to say that there aren’t situations where this type of restoration might be ideal. The best way to know if it’s right for you is to please call (314) 375-5353 (Downtown St. Louis) or (314) 678-7876 (Clayton) today for an appointment with St. Louis dental implant dentist Dr. Chris Hill at City Smiles.