Don’t worry, this isn’t a dentist’s version of the “Wizard of Oz”, but deciding what kind of dental work may be the best for you if you have missing teeth can be a bit, well…. daunting?
In this article, we’ll give you the basic information you’ll need to have an informed conversation with your dentist about whether a bridge, partial denture or implant is the right treatment for you.
A “traditional” dental bridge has much in common with a simple wooden bridge. Both span a gap. A wooden bridge may span a gap over a river, valley, etc. In the case of a dental bridge, the gap that is spanned is the area where a tooth (or teeth) is missing.
On either side of a wooden bridge, there are structures that hold and attach each end of the span. These are called abutments. With a dental bridge, the teeth on either side of the gap are also called abutments.
With a wooden bridge, the gap is spanned by wood and attached to the bridge abutments. Dental bridges span the gap using a metal or porcelain “pontic” instead of wood, but the idea of spanning a gap attached to two abutments is the same. A pontic is a tooth shaped replacement shaped and shaded exactly like the missing tooth or teeth.
- Bridges are generally more affordable than implants.
- There is no surgical procedure with a bridge.
- Bridges are faster than having an implant placed.
- Bridges are covered by dental insurance.
- Bridges have very good esthetics.
- The biggest con is that the abutment teeth need to be “trimmed” down to accept the crowns that attach to the pontic.
- Bridges may need to be replaced every 5-7 years but can last much longer with good oral hygiene.
- Bridges need special dental hygiene measures to keep clean.
- There may be some bone loss under the pontic over time.
- Crowns can still be susceptible to tooth decay without proper oral hygiene.
(The following bridges are used in specialized cases. Ask your dentist for further information.)
- Maryland Bridge
- Cantilever Bridge
- Inlay/Onlay Bridge
- Fiber Reinforced Composite Bridge
- Partial Dentures
If you have a situation where you have multiple missing teeth in more than one place, or with some teeth in the front and no teeth in the back, a partial denture may be an option.
unlike dental bridges are removable. Partial dentures attach to the teeth on either side of any missing teeth gaps using specialized clasps (wires) made of metal or thermoplastic material. All the replacement teeth are connected together by a metal or a thermoplastic plastic framework. Replacement teeth are made of plastic or porcelain with a plastic pink colored area that rests on the gum tissue.
- An affordable alternative for multiple missing teeth.
- Additional replacement teeth may be added to the partial if there are further extractions.
- A better alternative than a full denture if enough teeth remain, especially for the lower arch.
- Increased chance of decay where partial denture attaches to teeth.
- There is a “break in” time to get used to partial dentures
- Not as stable as a bridge or implant.
- Need to be replaced periodically.
- Bone loss may occur in the areas of missing teeth.
Implants and Implant Bridges
Within the last three decades, dental implants have become a routine procedure. Implants are shaped in general like wood screws and are made of titanium. Pilot holes for the placement of the implants are made in the jaw, or the implant may be placed where a tooth has just been extracted (pulled). The implant(s) is then screwed into the pilot hole in the jaw. Implants serve the same purpose as the abutment teeth in a wooden bridge (mentioned earlier in this article under “Bridges”).
An implant bridge may consist of only implants or a combination of teeth and implants acting as abutments. Tooth and implant combination bridges are usually reserved for very short gaps. In all cases, be it a tooth or implant, crowns are cemented or screwed onto the prepared abutments on either side of the gap. A pontic or multiple pontics are attached to the crowns and span the area of missing teeth.
- Implant bridges can be used where there are no back teeth, avoiding the use of a removable partial denture.
- Implants can be used as replacements for missing teeth on their own, (which can avoid the need for a traditional bridge).
- Implants last for a long time.
- They encourage bone growth. (The gap where the pontic(s) are in a traditional bridge may lose bone over time).
- There is no chance for tooth decay (Unless a tooth is used in a tooth and implant bridge).
- Oral hygiene is the same as used for natural teeth.
- Implants are expensive.
- Oral surgery is required
- Treatment time may be up to three to six months before the final bridge can be placed. (Temporary replacement teeth are used during this period).
- Not all people are suitable candidates for implants.
Dr. Amir Mojahed and Dr. Sanaz Mojahed (Dr. Sunny) at Evolve Dental Care in Allentown, PA can provide you with all the types of bridges, partials, and implants mentioned in this article. And you won’t have to say, “Oh my!” either, as one of the outstanding features of Evolve Dental Care and their staff is making sure that you are completely informed about your dental options. As a family dental care practice, we want to get to know you as a person and not just as a patient. We understand that dental procedures can be confusing especially with some of the newer innovations in the dental field. We will take the time to answer any of your questions and provide you with the dental care that is best for your own unique situation.
“The staff are all very friendly at Evolve Dental Care. My appointments are always on time and the quality of care is always exceptional. I am very pleased with my overall experience”. - Kara W.