Dental bridges are a popular way to mask missing teeth and keep you chewing comfortably, but like real teeth, they sometimes need repairing. Chips and cracks occasionally occur through normal usage.

Depending on the severity of damage, fixing your smile may be as simple as a quick visit to the dentist, or it may require a full replacement of the bridge. These five steps will help walk you through the process of repairing a chipped or broken dental bridge

Caring for a Broken Bridge Outside the Office

If you first learn about chips in your bridge during a routine check-up, this step becomes less important. If, on the other hand, you notice your bridge break during a normal day, you should try to prevent further damage until you see a professional. If possible, preserve any pieces of the bridge that come loose. Avoid chewing any tough foods on that side of your mouth and avoid very hot or cold beverages. 

Minor chips, so long as they aren't causing discomfort, can be safely ignored until a regular dental exam. Major damage to the bridge, however, should be treated as soon as possible. By scheduling a quick appointment, you will prevent further damage to the fixture, which may make all the difference between a quick patch-up and more extensive repairs. 

Fixing Minor Cosmetic Blemishes

Small chips in a porcelain fixture can often be fixed within the dentist's office. Composite resins are applied to the missing area, filling in minor gaps to restore the original appearance of the tooth. In many cases, this does not even require removing the bridge and can be completed in a single sitting.

Repairing or Replacing Major Damage

If your bridge has larger blemishes and cracks, it may be sent out of office for repairs or new manufacturing. This usually entails widening the damaged area, filling it with a bonding metal, and then covering the surface with a ceramic resin. The ceramic provides extra strength and gives the appearance of a white, solid tooth once again. Trauma that cannot be repaired will require a new bridge. 

While your bridge is out for repair, you may need temporary crowns installed over the abutment teeth. This is also the time to correct any underlying issues in the teeth and gums covered by the bridge. Once the new bridge has arrived and your teeth are ready, you can return to the office for installation. 

Preventing Future Bridge Failures

With your bridge back in place, your next priority is probably to avoid future emergency visits to the dentist.

Careful hygiene around and under the bridge will prevent bacterial buildups that often lead to bridge failure. While the bridge will not decay on its own, the teeth and gums surrounding it are still vulnerable. Keep your bridge's support strong to ensure its long-term survival. 

Pay attention to your new fixture during the weeks and months after its replacement. This is the typical window for crown and bridge failure. Whenever you experience nagging pain, inflammation, bleeding, or other signs that something isn't right, contact your dentist for another assessment. With any luck, your new bridge will take to your mouth like a duck to water.

Considering Other Tooth-Replacement Options

In certain cases, repairing or replacing a dental bridge is not an option. This is common when surrounding natural teeth can no longer support the bridge. It may also be caused by lifestyle factors that make bridge maintenance unrealistic. Whatever the situation may be, there are several viable alternatives to bridges that you may want to consider. 

Implants, though more expensive, anchor false teeth with titanium roots. This allows the false tooth to interact more naturally with your body, including slowing bone loss in your jaw. Because implant success rates are tied in part to jawbone density, it may be better to upgrade sooner than later.

Before making any big decisions about your dental health, speak with your dentist to learn more about your unique dental needs and options moving forward.