Tooth loss or edentulism is an embarrassing situation that some people have to face. It not only affects one’s facial appearance but can adversely affect the normal functioning of the mouth. This predicament can be solved using dentures. Dentures or artificial teeth are custom made, porcelain (or metal) prosthetic restorations that are used to replace missing tooth/teeth.
Based on the number of teeth lost, dentures can be either Complete Dentures or Partial Dentures.
If all the teeth in a single arch are lost, mainly due to old age, a complete denture is used. On the other hand, if a single tooth or a few teeth are lost, then a partial denture is recommended.
Partial dentures are of two types:
1. Removable Partial Dentures
The replacement tooth/teeth are attached on an acrylic (plastic) base that has metal or plastic clasps on its either side to help fix the denture perfectly in the mouth. As the name suggests, these dentures can be removed and cleaned without the help of a dentist. They are less expensive, although not 100% stable.
2. Fixed Partial Dentures
Also known as a bridge, fixed partial dentures are dental restorations that are used to fill the edentulous region (space created by missing tooth/teeth). These dentures are attached permanently to the teeth surrounding the gap or on dental implants and can be removed only by a dental professional.
Over the years, fixed partial dentures have attained popularity although they are a bit expensive. With increasing aesthetic awareness, fixed partial dentures are still preferred over removable partial dentures.
When a tooth or few teeth are lost, the empty space thus created can cause the adjacent teeth to shift position and occupy this gap. This eventually leads to dental occlusion (improper bite), speech problems and gum diseases. This can be rectified with the help of bridges or fixed partial dentures.
Some of the benefits of fixed partial dentures are:
A dental bridge literally ‘bridges’ the gap created by the lost tooth/teeth. The replacement tooth called the pontic is permanently attached to the gap, and the neighboring teeth called abutments provide support to it.
Usually, two to three visits are required for fitting a dental bridge.
In the first visit, the enamel of the abutment teeth is removed so that a crown can be fitted properly onto the teeth. Next, impressions of the teeth are taken so that the bridge, crown and pontics can be created by the dental lab using materials like porcelain fused to metal or even gold.
After this, a temporary bridge is placed over the exposed teeth till the permanent bridge is made. In your second visit, this temporary bridge is removed and the permanent bridge is properly cemented to the teeth.
Subsequent visits may be necessary to check the complete fitting of the bridge; it depends on each case.
Bridges are commonly of three types:
1. Traditional Bridges
This is the most common type of bridge wherein a crown is made for the teeth on either side of the missing tooth with the pontic coming in between. These bridges are made of ceramics or porcelain fused with metal.
2. Cantilever Bridges
If the abutment teeth are present only on one side of the missing tooth, then cantilever bridge is used.
3. Maryland Bridges
Also known as resin-bonded bridge, the pontic is attached to the natural teeth with the help of metal or porcelain wings.
After getting a fixed partial denture treatment done, it’s important that you take good care of your teeth. To increase the longevity of your dental bridge and to avoid the occurrence of periodontal diseases, make sure you practice good oral hygiene.
The bridge may come out loose if the gums or the abutments are infected; the main cause being food getting stuck between the teeth eventually causing tooth decay.
Brush your teeth twice a day with good quality fluoridated toothpaste. Also, be regular in flossing. Do not chew on hard foods like ice, candy, etc. These can cause damage to the bridge.
Finally, make it a point to visit your dentist on a regular basis for checkups and cleanups.