She’s perfectly comfortable discussing home makeovers, explaining complex crafts projects in a step-by-step fashion…even grabbing some power tools and showing viewers how she built a “garden bridge” to avoid trampling her perennials. So when it came time for lifestyle guru Martha Stewart to have some renovation work done in on her teeth—in this case, a dental bridge—she didn’t shy away from the camera: In fact, she live-tweeted the bridgework procedure straight from her dentist’s chair, with before-and-after pictures!
We’re always happy when people like Stewart, who appreciate good craftsmanship, take time to recognize the careful work that goes into dental restorations. But in case you aren’t sure how dental bridges work, or where and when they can be used, here’s a brief guide.
If you have spaces in your smile from missing teeth, dental bridgework is one good way to solve the problem. (Dental implants are another; a major difference between the two systems is that bridgework is fastened to existing, healthy teeth on either side of the gap, while an implant tooth is affixed by a small metal post placed into the jaw bone in a minor surgical procedure.) The bridge itself consists of a series of three or more crowns (prosthetic teeth) fabricated as a single unit. The crowns on the edges are affixed to existing teeth; those in the center replace teeth that are missing.
There’s a good deal of artistry in a well-made bridge, which results from the collaboration between dentists and laboratory technicians. In fact, every piece of dental bridgework is custom-made for each individual, perfectly matching their dental anatomy in terms of color, size and shape. In the traditional method, the dentist makes a model of the patient’s mouth, which is sent to a dental lab. The lab uses the model to fabricate the prosthetic teeth, and then sends the completed bridge to the dentist for placement. Today, however, some dentists have mini-labs in their offices, which use high-tech equipment to produce bridgework on demand.
In order for a bridge to be firmly anchored, the natural teeth that support it (called abutment teeth) must first be prepared. This means that some tooth structure must be removed so that the crowns can be placed over them and cemented securely; it’s similar to the tooth restoration procedure called a crown or a “cap.” Once fixed in place, dental bridgework can be expected to last around ten or more years. The removal of healthy tooth material, however, can sometimes weaken the natural tooth or make it more prone to decay. That’s one reason why people who have bridgework must be especially careful to keep their oral hygiene as good as it can be.
What did Martha think about her bridgework? “I’m extremely satisfied,” she said. “When observed, you cannot tell that it’s not my real tooth.”
So if you have a missing tooth, ask your dentist whether dental bridgework might be right for you. Call us at 1-800-238-5163 to find out about how dental savings plans can help make quality dental care affordable.