Kimberley Lloyd considers the options available to clinicians.
When a patient presents with a missing tooth, it is important to ensure that they are provided with the best treatment for them. For some patients, fixed dental bridges are ideal, allowing them to experience restored function and aesthetics. All patients should be provided with tailored oral hygiene advice, enabling them to take care of their fixed prosthesis long-term.
As with any fixed dental prosthesis, dental bridges are associated with an increased risk of disease development if proper oral hygiene is not optimal. In the long-term, this can lead to failure of the bridge, so it is important to keep patients motivated and attending appointments for the best results.
Benefits of fixed dental bridges
Dental bridges are considered to be a good treatment option for the replacement of missing teeth. By preparing the tooth or teeth on either side of the gap as abutments, and using pontic crowns to fill the empty space, clinicians are able to restore the aesthetic appearance of the teeth.
Dental bridges can create a relatively natural look, making them a good option for many patients, and are widely available in many cases. This treatment type can have a significant impact on patients’ quality of life, restoring functionality and allowing them to feel confident when smiling, eating, and speaking, without feeling self-conscious about the appearance of their teeth. This means that patients are likely to be satisfied with their dental care, encouraging a positive relationship between the patient and their dentist.
Oral hygiene challenges
However, fixed dental bridges can present challenges when it comes to maintaining high standards of oral hygiene. The nature of a dental bridge means that the patient must be able to clean under the pontic, and around the abutments on either side of the restoration to effectively remove plaque build-up. To do this thoroughly, brushing as usual with a regular brush is not sufficient, and patients should receive tailored advice about how to properly clean around their unique restoration.
A study which assessed patients’ ability to clean around their fixed prostheses concluded that 73 per cent of participants used interdental cleaning aids to clean around their bridge. It is widely accepted that interdental cleaning is essential for reducing and preventing plaque accumulation, and research suggests that this, in turn, reduces gingival inflammation and periodontal issues.
These are the most common problems associated with fixed prostheses, along with caries, which is considered to be the cause of bridge failure in many cases. Caries develops in cases where there are high levels of plaque accumulation, as a result of insufficient oral hygiene. The caries which develops around the prosthesis could cause the treatment to fail, and may even result in the need for tooth extraction and/or further restorative treatment.
Supporting patients with fixed prostheses
While the patient is primarily responsible for maintaining their oral hygiene, and seeking professional help if they notice any dental problems, it is important to provide patients with tailored advice and ongoing support after treatment. Research suggests that when patients are educated on how best to carry out oral hygiene routines, their oral health improves. In addition, encouraging patients to attend regular dental hygiene appointments can be beneficial, ensuring that they receive a professional clean around their dental bridge on a regular basis. This should involve thoroughly cleaning underneath the fixed prosthesis to remove any plaque that has built up, as well as continued patient education, recommending the most appropriate tools and techniques to use for each individual.
When recommending interdental cleaning techniques to your patients, ensure that you are able to suggest quality products which enable them to carry out the most effective clean. Flexi interdental brushes, from Tandex, feature ergonomic and flexible handles,for improved access to hard-toreach areas, and are available in 11 different sizes, helping you to find the perfect fit for your patients’ bridge work. Additionally, when Prevent Gel is applied to any Flexi interdental brush, patients can enjoy an added antibacterial effect.
Fixed dental bridges are a fantastic solution for missing teeth in many cases. They provide patients with restored function and aesthetics, boosting their quality of life. However, it is important to provide patients with the tools, information, and ongoing support that they need to maintain their fixed prostheses long-term. By attending regular dental and hygiene appointments, patients can expect thorough plaque removal, reducing their chances of developing gingival inflammation and caries in their remaining dentition. By recommending daily interdental cleaning, you provide your patients a reliable way to remove plaque from underneath the bridge regularly, helping to prevent build-up, and protect their oral health, as well as the life of their prosthesis.
References available on request.