A bridge is a restoration that replaces or spans the space where one or more teeth have been lost. A bridge helps maintain the natural shape of your face and may help support your lips and cheeks. The loss of a back tooth may cause your mouth to sink and your face to look older.

More important, though, your dental health may suffer when teeth are not replaced. Teeth work together. When a tooth is lost, the nearby teeth may tilt toward the empty space, or the teeth in the opposite jaw may shift up or down toward the space. This can alter your bite and place unusual stress on both the teeth and tissues in your mouth.

In addition, due to the increased stress, the gum tissues and the bone that holds the teeth in place can break down from the resulting gum disease. Teeth that have tipped are difficult to clean, making them more likely to decay. As a result, even more teeth may eventually be lost.

Missing teeth also can affect the way you chew and speak. Chewing on one side only may cause stress in your mouth and jaw joints. A fixed bridge is commonly cemented to the natural teeth next to the space left by the missing teeth. A false tooth (called a pontic) replaces the lost tooth. A pontic is attached to a crown (restoration that covers a tooth). Crowns, which are cemented on natural teeth, serve as abutments that provide support for the bridge.