A pontic is an artificial (false) tooth, usually attached to a dental prosthesis, that replaces a missing tooth . A dentist will recommend placement of a pontic when a patient’s natural tooth is missing due to dental trauma, root resorption, advanced periodontal disease or failed endodontic therapy.
Types of Pontics
There are four main types of pontic:
• a fixed bridge by which the pontic is held between healthy teeth on both sides and can be removed only by a dental specialist,
• a partial denture in which the pontic is held by clasps that attach to nearby teeth and can be removed for daily cleaning,
• complete dentures or a set of false teeth, and
• a dental implant that has a small metal post placed into the jawbone to support either a fixed bridge or complete dentures.
Ways of Attachment
Depending on the type of dental bridge, pontics are attached to a patient's mouth in a variety of ways.
Traditional bridge—In the most common type of dental bridge, the bridge is attached to two dental crowns. The bridge is held in place by the crowns’ fitting over the existing teeth.
Maryland bridge—The pontic is attached to metal bands in this d esign, which is commonly used to replace the front teeth. These bands, which are hidden with a white-colored composite resin, are then bonded to the two dental crowns.
Cantilever bridge—In cases where teeth are present on only one side of the span, a cantilever bridge is used. This type of bridge consists of three units, including two dental crowns that are placed next to each other on the same side of the missing tooth space. Extending into the missing space, the pontic is connected to these two crowns.
Replacing missing teeth with pontics brings several benefits.
• Replacing a missing tooth can prevent the other teeth from shifting in ways that can lead to further oral problems and cause discomfort for the patient.
• Crooked teeth, which can result from shifting caused by the missing tooth, can lead to further tooth decay and periodontal disease because cleaning between them is difficult. This can lead to further tooth loss.
• Pontics and their attachments provide support for facial muscles, improve oral functions such as speech and chewing ability, and enhance one’s smile and general facial appearance.
Reasons for Getting Pontics
• correct a malocclusion, or bad bite
• keep the shape of your face intact
• reinstate your ability to bite properly
• reduce your risk of gum disease
• improve your ability to chew properly
• improve your speech
Generally made of either plastic or ceramic materials, pontics should be cared for with the same diligence necessary for natural teeth. For the maintenance of their quality, pontics should be cleaned every day, taken out every night (if possible, as is the case with a partial denture but not with a fixed bridge, which can be removed only by a dental specialist), and soaked overnight in either denture cleanser or a mix of warm water and vinegar.
To avoid tooth loss and the need for pontics, brush twice a day, floss at least once a day , and see a qualified dentist at least twice a year for regular dental cleanings and assessments.
Find a dentist in your area if you have a missing tooth and suspect you need a pontic.