Dental bridges are used to replace missing teeth. A cantilever bridge is a fixed bridge that attaches to adjacent teeth on one end only (whereas a conventional bridge attaches from teeth on both sides). A dentist must trim and fit an adjacent tooth with a crown. Since large amounts of the tooth structure are removed from healthy teeth for the placement of bridges, a dentist will want to insert a cantilever bridge when possible, since only one adjacent tooth will be trimmed. The drawback, however, is that only one tooth provides support for the artificial tooth, so a cantilever bridge is limited to areas of the mouth that do not receive much stress during chewing.
There are several types of dental bridges. A cantilever, like all other types, is a fixed solution to missing teeth, which means it cannot be removed (as with dental implants ). A dentist will suggest dental implants for a patient who only has 1 or 2 teeth missing, but will most likely suggest a bridge for a person who has 2-3 teeth missing. If more than 3 are missing, a longer bridge will likely collapse. (In case a person does have more than 3 teeth missing, partial dentures are recommended, and if all of a patient’s teeth are missing,complete dentures are the best option.) The cantilever should be understood in the context of all bridge types. The following are the most common:
Conventional fixed dental bridge: This bridge type is employed more than any other. To put it in place, a dentist must trim teeth on both sides of the missing tooth and place a porcelain crown on top of each tooth. A pontic (or single false tooth) is attached in the middle, which “bridges” the gap between the teeth.
Cantilever bridge: A typical type of cantilever bridge is the 3-unit cantilever bridge. This consists of two abutment crowns that are positioned side by side on the same side of the missing tooth space. The pontic is then connected to the two crowns which extend into the missing tooth space.
Maryland Bridge (a type of resin-retained bridge): This design is commonly used to replace the front teeth; the pontic is attached to metal bands, which are hidden with a white-colored composite resin, and are then bonded to the two dental crowns.
Placement of a dentil bridge requires two trips to the dentist’s office.
- During your first trip, your dentist will begin the procedure by giving you a local anesthetic, so that you will not feel any pain throughout the procedure.
- An impression of your mouth will then be taken, which will show your dentist what your teeth look like before you receive a bridge.
- Support teeth (teeth on either side of the missing tooth) will be trimmed.
- Your dentist will then fit you with a temporary bridge until your permanent bridge is ready. Since this temporary bridge is not made from porcelain, it is weaker and can be easily removed during your next office visit.
- In your next visit to the dentist's office, you will have a chance to see how your bridge looks and feels before it's permanently placed in your mouth. In order to ensure that your occlusion (bite) is correct, your dentist might make some additional adjustments to your bridge.
It is important to practice good oral hygiene after having a dental bridge fitted. Some basic steps that will help to eliminate or reduce future oral health problems include:
- Brushing your teeth carefullyafter every meal with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush; this is imperative since food may become lodged, causing the gums and teeth to become infected. This infection, if left unchecked, may lead to further problems, resulting in the loss of the bridge.
- Flossinghelps to clean the “hard-to-reach” places between the bridge and its adjacent teeth. This stops the buildup of food and the problems it can cause.
- Dental cleanings every 6 months by an oral health professional are necessary. Limiting your intake of sugar and starch is recommended since debris left behind from these types of foods may turn into damaging acids which may also be harmful to teeth and gums.
The main advantage of a dental bridge is that it looks and acts like real teeth. And because they are not removable, you can rest assured that they will be in your mouth all the time.
There are, of course, risks to receiving dental bridges. One main risk is the extra pressure that is placed on the supporting teeth; such pressure can cause the supporting teeth to break and can also cause the death of tooth pulp in those teeth.
Dental Bridges Are Not for Everyone
It’s important to note that not everyone is a candidate for a dental bridge. Patients who qualify for bridges must have good oral hygiene, because the role that the supporting teeth play in sustaining bridges is crucial. If a patient has poor oral care (inadequate brushing and flossing, tooth decay), is a smoker, or has supporting teeth that are unstable, a dentist will likely opt against placement of a bridge.
The bottom line is that a cantilever bridge is a functional and cosmetically satisfying choice for patients who have only one adjacent tooth capable of full support, and who practice good oral hygiene.Consult with a dentist in your area to decide if a cantilever bridge is the right dental solution for you.