Dental bridge: Everything you need to know

What is a dental bridge?

A dental bridge can replace a tooth or several teeth. The fake teeth in dental bridges look and function like real teeth. For a bridge, a person may see a prosthodontist, a dentist who specializes in restoring and replacing missing teeth, or a regular dentist. Either way, there are many options for filling a gap in a smile.

One option is to have a crown — a fake bit of tooth attached to a small portion of real tooth that the dentist has ground down. When a person has lost a tooth or the dentist has had to remove it, however, a crown alone is not an option, and a dental bridge may be the best choice.

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The term “bridge” refers to a structure that contains one or more fake teeth. The structure is often anchored in place with one or more crowns on either side of the gap in the mouth. For example, if a person loses several front teeth, due to injury or decay, a doctor may use a bridge to fill in the gap.

A person may not wish to have a gap in their teeth, after having a tooth removed, for example, because they need a tooth in the area for chewing or because of cosmetic concerns.

For some people, a permanent dental implant is an alternative to a bridge. Dental implants are fake teeth that dentists surgically insert into bone in the mouth. For others, dentists recommend implants to help secure a bridge, particularly if many teeth are missing.

Uses

A dental bridge can help a person feel more comfortable with their smile. It can also enable them to chew normally.

When a person loses one or more teeth, it can affect their bite, causing pain or difficulty eating. Replacing those teeth prevents these complications.

A person may need a bridge if:

  • a tooth is so decayed that it falls out or a dentist removes it
  • an accident or injury damages a tooth beyond repair
  • decay or infection is so deep within a tooth that neither a filling nor a root canal are sufficient

Types

Dentists use several types of bridges:

  • A traditional bridge involves two crowns — sometimes called abutments — anchoring the fake tooth or teeth. This is the most popular type of bridge, and it can be fixed or removable.
  • A cantilever bridge requires only one crown for support. This involves a less intensive procedure and may be a good option for people who do not want to damage healthy teeth. However, the single crown can act as a lever, increasing the risk of tooth and jaw damage.
  • Maryland bridges are more conservative and less invasive than traditional or cantilever bridges. The bridge is anchored by metal or porcelain frameworks attached to the backs of teeth on either side of the gap. These bridges can preserve healthy teeth, but they are less secure.
  • Implant-supported bridges use dental implants as anchors. This type of bridge is more expensive and invasive but more secure.

Why does my tooth still hurt after a filling?

Most of the time, this sensitivity is normal and will resolve within a few days or weeks. A person should call their dentist right away if they have extreme pain, or if discomfort occurs with other symptoms, such as fever, redness, or swelling.

In this article, we look at the reasons why a person may have tooth sensitivity after a filling, how to treat it, and when to see a doctor or dentist. We also look at other possible causes of tooth sensitivity.

What should I expect after a filling?

A filling is a dental procedure that involves a dentist cleaning away any decay from the tooth and then filling the space with a new material.

After injecting a numbing agent around the tooth, the dentist will then clean out the decayed area of the tooth, usually with a dental drill. They will then fill the space with gold, silver amalgam, a composite, or porcelain.

For several hours after having a filling, a person’s face may still feel numb, tingly, itchy, or puffy. They may have difficulty eating, swallowing, talking, or moving their face.

Sometimes, dentists recommend that people avoid eating or drinking for a few hours, as this may result in a person accidentally biting their tongue or cheek.

Once the numbing agent has worn off, these feelings will go away. But, in the following days and weeks, a person may notice some new sensations as they adjust to the new filling.

Sensitivity in the filled tooth or area around it is one of the most common occurrences during this time.

What does sensitivity after a filling feel like?

When a person has a sensitive tooth, they may notice that certain triggers cause a temporary, uncomfortable sensation in the filled tooth or surrounding area. It may feel like a shock of cold or sudden pain that comes on quickly and goes away.

Factors that can trigger tooth sensitivity after a filling include:

  • cold foods or drinks, such as ice cream, popsicles, or beverages with ice
  • hot drinks, such as coffee or tea
  • air hitting the tooth, such as when breathing through the mouth, which may be worse with cold air
  • sugary foods, such as candy
  • acidic foods and drinks, including fruit, juice, and coffee
  • biting down when eating

Why do fillings cause tooth sensitivity?

ome sensitivity after a tooth filling is normal and temporary. Sometimes, however, sensitivity after a filling is due to other causes that need treatment or repair.
Short-term tooth sensitivity after a filling usually occurs because the filling procedure has aggravated or caused inflammation in the nerve inside the tooth.

Usually, the tooth’s outer layers — the enamel and cementum — protect the nerve from exposure. But fillings, especially deep ones, can get close to the nerve endings and cause irritation and uncomfortable sensations.

As the nerve heals, the sensitivity will go away. This may take a few days or weeks. Once the nerve has healed fully, a person should feel no difference between the filled tooth and the other teeth.

Causes and treatment of gingivitis

Gingivitis is a non-destructive type of periodontal disease, but untreated gingivitis can progress to periodontitis. Signs of gingivitis include red and puffy gums, that bleed easily when the person brushes their teeth.

Gingivitis often resolves with good oral hygiene, such as longer and more frequent brushing, and flossing. In addition, an antiseptic mouthwash may help.

In mild cases of gingivitis, patients may not even know they have it, because symptoms are mild. However, the condition should be taken seriously and addressed immediately.

Types

There are two main categories of gingival diseases:

Dental plaque-induced gingival disease: This can be caused by plaque, systemic factors, medications, or malnutrition.

Non-plaque induced gingival lesions: This can be caused by a specific bacterium, virus, or fungus. It might also be caused by genetic factors, systemic conditions (including allergic reactions and certain illnesses), wounds, or reactions to foreign bodies, such as dentures. Sometimes, there is no specific cause.

Causes

The most common cause of gingivitis is the accumulation of bacterial plaque between and around the teeth. The plaque triggers an immune response, which, in turn, can eventually lead to the destruction of gingival, or gum, tissue. It may also, eventually, lead to further complications, including the loss of teeth.

Dental plaque is a biofilm that accumulates naturally on the teeth. It is usually formed by colonizing bacteria that are trying to stick to the smooth surface of a tooth.

These bacteria might help protect the mouth from the colonization of harmful microorganisms, but dental plaque can also cause tooth decay, and periodontal problems such as gingivitis and chronic periodontitis, a gum infection.

When plaque is not removed adequately, it can harden into calculus, or tartar, at the base of the teeth, near the gums. This has a yellow color. Calculus can only be removed professionally.

Plaque and tartar eventually irritate the gums, causing gum inflammation around the base of the teeth. This means that the gums might easily bleed.

Other causes and risk factors

Changes in hormones: This may occur during puberty, menopause, the menstrual cycle, and pregnancy. The gingiva might become more sensitive, raising the risk of inflammation.

Some diseases: Cancer, diabetes, and HIV are linked to a higher risk of gingivitis.

Drugs: Oral health may be affected by some medications, especially if saliva flow is reduced. Dilantin, an anticonvulsant, and some anti-angina medications can cause abnormal growth of gum tissue.

Smoking: Regular smokers more commonly develop gingivitis, compared with non-smokers.

Age: The risk of gingivitis increases with age.

Poor diet: A vitamin-C deficiency, for example, is linked to gum disease.

Family history: Those whose parent or parents have had gingivitis have a higher risk of developing it too. This is thought to be due to the type of bacteria we acquire during our early life.