A bridge is a dental appliance that replaces one or more natural missing teeth, thereby "bridging" the space between two teeth. Fixed bridges are cemented into place next to the "abutment" teeth- -the surrounding teeth on either side of the space, or "span." Unlike removable partial dentures, fixed bridges cannot be taken out of the mouth by the patient. A fixed bridge is a device that typically consists of three units-a pontic (a false tooth) fused between two crowns that are cemented onto the abutment teeth.
If you are missing any teeth and are committed to maintaining good oral hygiene practices, you may be a good candidate for a bridge. A bridge is the most natural choice to fill the space in your mouth left by missing teeth. If left unfilled, this space can cause the surrounding teeth to drift out of position and can cause teeth and gums to become more susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease that can cause further tooth loss. Fixed bridges not only correct an altered bite, improve your chewing ability and speech, but they also safeguard your appearance by preventing the collapse of your facial features that can cause premature wrinkles and age lines.
If there are no adjacent teeth to act as anchors, your dentist may recommend an implant-a metal post that is surgically imbedded into the bone and capped with a crown as an abutment. In some cases where the span is large, your dentist may recommend a removable partial denture or even an implant-supported prosthesis.
For a traditional fixed bridge, the first appointment consists of the dentist reducing the adjacent abutment teeth that will act as anchors. Impressions are made, from which a metal framework, including the pontic, is created. By the second appointment, the final bridge is fitted over the teeth. The total treatment time is usually between two or four weeks, depending on the type of bridge. However, because it is often difficult to match the natural shade of your teeth, the treatment time may be longer.
With a bridge, it is more important than ever to brush, floss and see your dentist regularly. If you do not control the buildup of food debris and plaque-the sticky film of bacteria formed from food acids-your teeth and gums can become infected, requiring further treatment and resulting in possible loss of the bridge. If you maintain optimal oral hygiene care, you can expect your fixed bridge to last as many as 8-10 years, or even longer.
Porcelain veneers are ultra-thin shells of ceramic material, which are bonded to the front of teeth. This procedure can be the ideal choice for improving the appearance of the front teeth. Porcelain veneers are placed to mask discolorations, to brighten teeth, and to improve a smile. Highly resistant to permanent staining from coffee, tea, or even cigarette smoking, the wafer-thin porcelain veneers can achieve a tenacious bond to the tooth, resulting in an esthetically pleasing naturalness that is unsurpassed by other restorative options.
Porcelain veneers are an excellent alternative to crowns in many situations. They provide a much more conservative approach to changing a tooth's color, size, or shape. Porcelain veneers can mask undesirable defects, such as teeth stained by tetracycline, by an injury, or as a result of a root-canal procedure, and are ideal for masking discolored fillings in front teeth. Patients with gaps between their front teeth or teeth that are chipped or worn may consider porcelain veneers. Generally, veneers will last for many years, and the technique has shown remarkable longevity when properly performed.
It's critical that you take an active role in the smile design. Spend time in the decision-making and planning of the smile. Understand the corrective limitations of the procedure. Have more than one consultation, if necessary, to feel comfortable that your dentist understands your objectives.
Tooth whitening isn't just for the movie stars, and it isn't just for one day. Many people have had their teeth whitened, and probably millions more are thinking about it. The desire for a brighter smile with whiter teeth is very strong, and tooth whitening safely lightens the color of the teeth, lasting for up to five years. The most effective and safest method of tooth whitening is dentist-supervised.
Generally, whitening is successful in at least 90 percent of patients, though it may not be an option for everyone. Consider tooth whitening if your teeth are darkened from age, coffee, tea or smoking. Teeth darkened with the color of yellow, brown or orange respond better to lightening. Other types of gray stains caused by fluorosis, smoking or tetracycline is lightened, but results are not as dramatic. If you have very sensitive teeth, periodontal disease, or teeth with worn enamel, your dentist may discourage whitening. The active ingredient in most of the whitening agents is 10 percent carbamide peroxide; when water contacts this white crystal, the release of hydrogen peroxide lightens the teeth.
Lightness should last from one to five years, depending on your personal habits such as smoking and drinking coffee and tea. At this point you may choose to get a touch up. This procedure may not be as costly because you can probably still use the same mouthguard. The retreatment time also is much shorter than the original treatment time. Several studies, during the past five years, have proven whitening to be safe and effective. The American Dental Association has granted its seal of approval to some tooth whitening products. Some patients may experience slight gum irritation or tooth sensitivity, which will resolve when the treatment ends.
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root (synthetic material) that is surgically anchored into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge in place. The benefit of using implants is that they don't rely on neighboring teeth for support, they are permanent and stable. Implants are a good solution to tooth loss because they look and feel like natural teeth. Implant material is made from different types of metallic and one-like ceramic materials that are compatible with body tissue.
The process can take up to nine months to complete. Technology, however, is trying to decrease the healing time involved. Each patient heals differently, so times will vary. After the screws and posts are placed surgically, the healing process can take up to six months and the fitting of replacement teeth no more than two months. The success rate for implants depends on the tooth's purpose and location in the mouth. The success rate is about 95 percent for those placed in the front of the lower jaw and 85 percent for those placed in the sides and rear of the upper jaw.
Talk with your dentist about whether you are an implant candidate. You must be in good health and have the proper bone structure and healthy gums for the implant to stay in place. People who are unable to wear dentures may also be good candidates. If you suffer from chronic problems, such as clenching or bruxism, or systemic diseases, such as diabetes, the success rate for implants decreases dramatically. Additionally, people who smoke or drink alcohol may not be good candidates. Poor oral hygiene is a big reason why some implants fail. It is important to floss and brush around the fixtures at least twice a day, without metal objects. Your dentist will give you specific instructions on how to care for your new implants. Additional cleanings of up to four times per year may be necessary to ensure that you retain healthy gums.