Tooth loss is never an ideal circumstance, but when life happens, restorative dentistry can restore a full, functional smile. Thankfully, with the number of tooth replacement methods available, restoring your smile is relatively simple. One of the more common dental restorations is a dental bridge. Dental bridges can fill gaps in your smile with artificial teeth, to provide a seamless, natural-looking appearance. Yet, while bridges can restore smiles flawlessly, cleaning underneath one can prove a bit difficult. For those who have recently had a bridge placed, proper dental bridge cleaning is an important thing to learn and master.
Why a Clean Bridge is Important for Your Health
Cleaning your bridge often is key to preventing oral health complications. As with any surface in your mouth, harmful oral bacteria will find their way onto your new dental bridge. If not properly cleaned and maintained, oral bacteria could accumulate underneath and around the bridge leading to periodontal disease. The sore, inflamed, and red gums that are a sign of gingivitis could lead to extensive infection of the soft supportive tissues of your mouth. Not only will this be harmful for your existing natural teeth and gum tissue, but could alter how your dental bridge fits, and make it uncomfortable or non-functional. Staying on top of oral hygiene is the best way to ensure your bridge—and your entire mouth—remains healthy and strong for years to come.
Types of Bridges
Proper dental bridge cleaning technique largely depends on the type of bridge you have. Some people refer to removable partial dentures as a removable bridge. This type of tooth restoration appliance can be removed for easy at-home cleanings after meals or at night. These typically are cleaned in the same manner as removable dentures.
Three common varieties of permanent bridges exist, including:
- Traditional bridges: these restorations are most often placed when natural teeth are found on both sides of a missing tooth. Dental crowns are placed on each natural tooth to create a stable hold for the artificial tooth (or pontic) that is “bridged” between. Traditional bridges are the most common type of bridge and are typically fabricated from porcelain or porcelain fused to metal.
- Cantilever bridges: these restorations are similar to a traditional bridge, but have only one supportive crown on one side of the pontic. Typically, these are only placed on teeth that do not support a large amount of pressure or biting force.
- Maryland bridges: the final type of fixed bridge is composed of a pontic supported by metal or porcelain “wings” that are bonded around adjacent teeth, rather than dental crowns.
Dental Bridge Cleaning Techniques and Methods
Cleaning your fixed dental bridge can take some getting used to. Some patients may find it difficult to adequately clean underneath the pontic. However, special tools, and practice, can help you achieve a cleaner bridge for optimal oral health.
We recommend patients try these different methods, to find the cleaning technique that works for them:
Flossing a bridge is different than flossing regular teeth. A floss threader is essentially a large needle, of sorts, made from a thin, flexible plastic that threads floss under a bridge. Using a threader is one of the most common methods for cleaning bridges. To use the threader, simply place the eye of the needle under the bridge and thread the floss through the eye. Then, while holding the floss and the threader, pull the threader until the floss is underneath the pontic. With a gentle cleaning motion, remove the food particles and plaque.
For instances when you can’t floss, use a toothpick. Carefully, move the toothpick under the tooth bridge to remove any lingering bacteria. Take care to do this slowly as hard force could injure your gum line.
These tiny brushes look miniature versions of full toothbrushes, and are often used by patients with metal orthodontics such as braces; the GUM brand is the main manufacturer of these brushes. Complete with bristles, an interdental brush (or “interproximal”) is quite effective at removing plaque and food. Using one is easy—just move the brush under the bridge and gently scrub away the germs.
One of the most dentist-recommended methods of flossing is with the use of an oral irrigator; the Waterpik is the most common one available to patients. This water-based flosser releases a stream of pulsating water to remove both food debris and plaque—which is water soluble. Many dentists recommend using an oral irrigator shortly after eating or snacking.
Avoiding Certain Foods
While a tooth bridge allows normal chewing function, it is a good idea to avoid certain types of foods to prevent damage to your bridge. Avoid sticky or chewy candies, or save them as an occasional treat. Sticky toffees, caramels, or taffy can exert a pulling force on the dental crowns supporting your bridge, increasing the chances of loosening the dental adhesive holding them to your natural teeth. In addition, be careful when chewing hard nuts such as almonds, and check for stray nut shell fragments which could crack your pontic or bridge supports.
Of course, one of the best things you can do to keep your bridge functional and clean, is to take good care of the rest of your mouth through twice daily brushings, daily dental flossing, and routine dental cleanings and examinations. A cleaner mouth can help maintain a cleaner tooth bridge, and ensure that your bridge lasts up to 10 or 15 years.
Contact us for more information on cleaning a dental bridge
For more information on dental bridge cleaning, schedule a consultation with Dr. James Fondriest. He can help you learn step-by-step methods to properly cleaning your bridge. Extend its life and improve your overall oral health. To schedule an appointment with our Lake Forest, IL dental practice, call (847) 234-0517. Also, visit our website for services, testimonials, and before-and-after gallery. Dr. Fondriest and his staff welcome patients from Lake Forest, the greater Chicago area, and across the country.