Dental bridges are a common tooth replacement solution for filling gaps left by missing teeth, providing both aesthetic improvement and restoration of chewing function.
However, without diligent oral hygiene performed daily, plaque and bacteria can readily accumulate in hard to clean spots underneath and right around the dental bridge appliance. This puts the patient at increased risk for developing a localized bridge infection in the gums or bone supporting the restoration.
An infection occurring under or adjacent to a dental bridge can become problematic quite quickly if oral bacteria are allowed to proliferate in the area. The early signs of bridge infection are often subtle and overlooked until the issue escalates. Being able to promptly recognize the common symptoms of a bridge infection as they arise is critical for obtaining treatment in a timely manner to manage the infection before it worsens or spreads.
Seeking prompt professional dental care at the first signs of pain, swelling or discomfort around an existing bridge can make treatment much simpler and improve outcomes. Ignoring the initial symptoms and delaying diagnosis of a bridge infection allows the inflammation and bone loss to advance, making the condition more challenging to treat.
Symptoms of dental bridge infection
1. Swelling and Inflammation
One of the first potential signs of infection is puffiness, redness or swelling around the gums adjacent to the bridge. Gingivitis or periodontitis can develop under bridges if plaque is not effectively removed. The onset of inflammation signals excess bacteria colonization.
While mild generalized redness under a bridge may only require improved cleaning, significant swollen and inflamed gums indicate likely infection that warrants attention.
2. Pain in the Gums or Teeth
Infection, inflammation and pressure on the gums and teeth can translate into pain symptoms:
- General tooth sensitivity not explained by other causes.
- Throbbing gum pain around the bridge site.
- Sharp pain when chewing or biting due to tissue irritation.
Any unexplained new pain around an existing dental bridge should be examined for potential infection underlying the symptoms.
3. Bad Breath
Gum infections frequently lead to increased odorous sulfur compounds in the breath. If bad breath arises despite good oral hygiene, suspect a bridge infection.
The anaerobic bacteria proliferating under the bridge produce foul odor compounds that the body expels through exhaling.
4. Looseness of the Bridge
Decay around abutment tooth roots or bone loss from gum disease may destroy the foundation stabilizing the bridge. This can lead to the bridge feeling loose, wobbly or incorrect fitting.
If the bridge shifts position or seems to detach slightly from the abutments, infection should be ruled out through dental examination and potential X-rays.
The most telling sign of infection is pus or purulent discharge. Yellow or white pus visibly oozing from the gums or from under the dental bridge signals the destructive bacteria have penetrated deep into tissues and require treatment.
Do not ignore pus drainage as it indicates an established infection in the bone or gums.
Seeking Prompt Treatment
If any of the above symptoms present, schedule an emergency or urgent dental appointment right away. The dentist will examine, diagnose and treat the infection before it spreads deeper or to other teeth.
Leaving an infected bridge untreated can result in tooth decay, receding gums, bone loss or even failure of the restoration. But addressing it promptly improves the prognosis.
Tips to Reduce Risk of Bridge Infections
The best way to avoid bridge infections is prevention through diligent home care. This involves:
- Brush carefully under and around the bridge twice daily. Use an interdental brush to thoroughly clean abutment areas.
- Floss once daily with threaders to remove plaque from under the bridge.
- Rinse daily with an antiseptic mouthwash to reduce overall oral bacteria.
- Schedule professional cleanings every 3-4 months for plaque removal a brush can’t reach.
- Monitor for signs of decay like sensitivity or bad taste which indicate potential infection.
- If diabetic, maintain excellent blood sugar control to reduce gum infection susceptibility.
- Don’t smoke, as this increases risk for bridge complications.
When to Replace an Infected Bridge
If a bridge cannot be salvaged through deep cleanings and antibiotic treatment, replacement may be necessary. Signs a new bridge is needed include:
- Excessive damage or decay below the bridge that is too extensive.
- Abutment teeth are overly compromised and can no longer support the bridge.
- The bridge itself is outdated or ill-fitting, contributing to infection risk.
- Persistent gum disease and bone loss despite treatment.
- Patient cannot maintain sufficient hygiene needed to prevent reinfection.
Implants may be an option if abutment teeth cannot sustain a new bridge. Discuss options with your dentist to determine the optimal solution.
While dental bridges typically offer years of problem-free use, oral hygiene lapses can allow threatening bacteria to infect the mouth and materials. Stay diligent with your bridge oral hygiene regimen. Familiarize yourself with the typical symptoms like swelling, pain and pus so you can get rapid care for the bridge and your health.
Quick action is key for preserving the restoration and your oral health when infections occur. Promptly treating infections prevents extensive dental work.