Bridging The Gap – Dental Bridges Versus Dentures

Never underestimate the importance of replacing a missing tooth. Think of it like a domino effect; if you have a tooth missing it can soon impact a number of teeth within your mouth. The adjacent teeth on either side of the gap can tip inwards and the teeth opposite can over-erupt. Before you know it, you’re covering your mouth with your hand when you smile and experiencing discomfort and biting problems.

Taking swift action is the key to avoiding this knock-on effect.  So, bridges versus dentures, which is the best for replacing missing teeth? This month, we’ll compare both treatment techniques and highlight everything you need to know.

What is a bridge?

A bridge is a fixed and permanent replacement of the missing tooth/teeth, which is supported on the teeth next to the gap. Very often the new replacement tooth, known as a Pontic, is attached to a new crown (which sits over an adjacent tooth). This requires the need to reduce healthy tooth tissue on the tooth next to the gap.

What is a denture?

A denture is a removable replacement for a missing tooth/teeth. The denture will be made of high-strength dental acrylic resin. It will be held in place with clasps, which firmly hold onto the surrounding teeth. These clasps can be made from a variety of materials including stainless steel, gold and acetyl resin.

How is a dental bridge made?

A dental bridge will be made by a dental technician. The part of the bridge which you see (the tooth-coloured part) will either be made of a high-strength resin or dental ceramic. These materials will be supported underneath by a high-strength substructure; this is often made of metal (titanium, gold alloy or chrome alloy) or ceramic (zirconia or lithium disilicate).

It takes many days for a dental technician to skilfully craft your new dental bridge by hand, and it takes many years of training and experience to enable them to create natural and lifelike dental bridges.

Some dental bridges are now also made using computerised digital technology known as CAD-CAM (computer-assisted design computer-assisted manufacturer). The investment in this sophisticated and modern technology is extensive,  helping patients to achieve the best possible results. Equally, the quality can be enhanced and the speed of production increased.

How is a denture made?

Dentures are normally made from stock teeth. In other words, the dental technician will select the mould, shape, size and colour of the teeth required from a wide selection. Once the appropriate stock tooth has been found, the technician will create a mock denture in pink gum-coloured wax. After this has been tried into your mouth to ensure you are happy with the look of the new denture, the technician will replace the wax with acrylic using the ‘lost wax’ technique.

What are the advantages of a dental bridge?

A dental bridge has the advantage of:

  • being made up of high-strength material making it highly unlikely to break
  • supporting the adjacent and opposing teeth; preventing them from moving
  • being highly aesthetic, blending in perfectly with your natural standing teeth.

What are the advantages of a denture?

A denture has the advantage of:

  • being easy to repair (in the event that it breaks)
  • supporting the adjacent and opposing teeth; preventing them from moving
  • being highly aesthetic when made by an experienced technician
  • typically being the lowest-cost option.

What are the disadvantages of a dental bridge?

Whilst a dental bridge can be a perfectly good way to replace a missing tooth, it comes with three primary disadvantages.

  1. A dental bridge often requires the inclusion of false teeth on either side of the gap, three teeth are therefore impacted. This requires a three-unit dental bridge.
  2. If the bridge breaks it is extremely difficult to repair and may need to be completely removed and then replaced. Some dental practices offer a guarantee with the bridge. It is worth asking your dentist about this when you discuss your treatment plan so you understand the specific guarantees available to you.
  3. No support for the bone. When you have a tooth removed, the bone around the gap begins to collapse. Only a dental implant can support this bone. This means that the gum underneath the false-suspending tooth can begin to shrink over time. This could leave a gap underneath, which you may find food gets trapped in or it may begin to look unsightly.

What are the disadvantages of a denture?

Again, a denture can be a perfectly acceptable way to replace a missing tooth or missing teeth. The three core disadvantages are outlined below.

  1. It is removable. Many people dislike the idea of having to remove their teeth replacement prosthesis at night.
  2. They are more prone to breakage. However, whilst a denture is more prone to fracture than a dental bridge, it is easier to repair if you are unlucky enough to break it.
  3. Partial dentures are harder to blend into your surrounding teeth and gum compared to a bridge.

Ongoing care and maintenance of bridges and dentures

Whether you decide to have a bridge or denture to replace your missing teeth, you will still need to visit your dentist post-treatment. Your dentist needs to monitor the effectiveness of your dental prosthesis – dentures particularly need ongoing maintenance as the underlying gum changes shape.

If you have a denture and don’t regularly visit the dentist, you may notice that the denture becomes loose and uncomfortable. This can result in sore areas on the gums and can even result in denture breaking.

If you have a dental bridge you may find it difficult to floss underneath it. It is very important to keep your bridge clean and you may find that super floss is required; this is floss with a hard end, which means you can reach it underneath the bridge and keep this area clean.

Where to go for information and advice about dentures and bridges

The best way to start is with your local dentist. The Dental Centre London in Euston is a dental practice with a keen interest in helping the local community enjoy a fit and healthy lifestyle and making the most of their smile. Please request an appointment today to discuss your options for replacing missing teeth with either dentures, bridges or dental implants. We will help find the right solution to suit you.