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I think my dentist damaged my dental bridge while adjusting my bite, and now the metal underneath is showing.

I’ve had a porcelain-covered metal bridge in my mouth for more than two decades. I grind my teeth a lot and while I know I should wear a mouth guard, I simply can’t afford one right now. Even so, my teeth grinding has never caused any damage to my bridge.

I had to get a couple of new crowns placed by my dentist last week and the fit wasn’t quite right, so my dentist had to make some adjustments to my bite. He said he had to adjust the surface of my porcelain-covered bridge, too. My bite felt better, but I noticed the next day that there’s now a little spot of metal showing through on the biting surface of my bridge where before it was smooth porcelain.

When I went back to my dentist to show him, he blamed the damage on my teeth grinding and covered the spot with some white filling material (which came right off later in the day).

I haven’t had a single issue with this bridge in more than 20 years. I refuse to believe that grinding my teeth caused this damage overnight, but my dentist won’t admit that he had anything to do with it.

What can I do?

Thanks,

— Jenny from Worcester, MA

Hi Jenny,

It sounds like you’re right, Jenny: your teeth grinding did not cause damage to your bridge overnight, and it’s highly likely that your dentist removing some porcelain from your bridge had something to do with this. This is an understandable and fairly common error that many dentists make when they are trying to adjust a bite.

Your dentist wouldn’t have removed the porcelain clear through to the underlying metal, but he thinned it out to the point that when you ground your teeth that night, it finished the job. Your dentist probably doesn’t want to admit that he contributed to this damage because he could become responsible for replacing your bridge.

It can be difficult to repair a bridge with this kind of damage, but it’s not impossible. As you’ve already discovered, a little white filling isn’t going to stay on very well, but there are other techniques a skilled cosmetic dentist can use to try to restore your bridge.

You may have a hard time getting your current dentist to repair or replace the bridge, however, if he’s convinced he didn’t have anything to do with damaging it in the first place.

So what you can do is visit a new dentist for a second opinion. This new dentist can take an objective look at your bridge and tell you whether it shows signs of being ground down too far by a dental drill. If the porcelain on your bridge was not compromised, then there won’t be a mark when the dentist gently draws a metal explorer across it. But if the porcelain was drilled away by a dentist, then the metal explorer will leave a mark on the surface.

When you have your “evidence,” you can go back to your original dentist, explain the findings, and ask him politely to help you repair your bridge. And if you feel that your current dentist is not taking your concerns seriously, then it could be time to search for a new one.

You can also avoid this issue in the future by choosing to restore damaged teeth with metal-free dental crowns and bridges.

This post has been published on behalf of Dr. Heng Lim, an Owasso dentist with extensive experience in creating balanced bites.