A dental bridge can restore the function and aesthetics of your smile if you have lost one or more consecutive teeth. However, some patients do not qualify for a traditional bridge, which relies on two healthy teeth for support. When there is only one tooth available to uphold a restoration, dentists often recommend a cantilever dental bridge. This restoration is comprised of one or more artificial teeth, known as pontics, and a single dental crown. If you are a candidate, a cantilever bridge can improve your bite, as well as your ability to eat and speak with confidence.
How a Cantilever Bridge Works
Cantilever vs. Traditional Bridges
Traditional bridges feature pontics flanked by two dental crowns, and they span the gap left by missing teeth. To secure the restoration, the dentist will need to sculpt neighboring teeth by removing a small portion of enamel. Though identical in function, cantilever bridges only require a single abutment tooth to be reshaped. The pontic will then project into the nearby space. Typically, dentists only use cantilever bridges to replace single missing teeth.
Explore Your Candidacy
Your dentist will examine your bite and the structural integrity of surrounding teeth before recommending a cantilever bridge. This restoration is often appropriate for those who do not have two teeth that are healthy enough to support a traditional bridge. Weakened or decayed teeth, for example, cannot provide adequate support for a crown. In other cases, a neighboring tooth might be supporting another restoration that cannot be replaced.
Cantilever bridges enable those who would not otherwise qualify for a bridge to receive a fixed restoration.
Cantilever brides are not quite as strong as traditional bridges and cannot bear the full force of a patient's bite. Therefore, these restorations are not typically recommended for back teeth. The doctor will also evaluate your alignment. If pressure falls unevenly across the dental arches, it could damage or break a cantilever bridge. In these cases, an implant-supported bridge may be a better option. If you need to replace multiple teeth, implants or a partial denture may offer more support.
What to Expect during Treatment
Prior to the procedure, patients will receive a local anesthetic to numb the area. To place a cantilever bridge, the dentist will need to reshape the abutment tooth that will uphold the restoration. By removing a small portion of the enamel, the dentist can ensure the restoration fits comfortably in your smile and does not disrupt occlusion.
Once the tooth is prepared, the dentist will take impressions and note the appropriate shade for the restoration. If the dental office is equipped with CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing) technology, your dentist may be able to craft the restoration in-house. Otherwise, the impressions will be sent to a local laboratory and used to fabricate the cantilever bridge. In the interim, patients are provided with temporary restorations to protect against sensitivity.
Before bonding the bridge in place, your dentist will check to ensure it fits properly. If no modifications are needed, your dentist can attach the prosthetic with dental cement and polish your teeth to add the finishing touches.
Common Materials Used
Cantilever bridges can be made from several materials, including porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM), all-porcelain, and zirconia. PFM bridges are more affordable than other options. However, it is important to note that the metal base can make the tooth appear darker over time. Patients seeking more natural-looking results may choose porcelain or zirconia restorations. These materials are shade-matched to blend seamlessly with adjacent teeth, and they never lose their vibrancy.
Risks Associated with Treatment
Cantilever bridges have a high success rate. However, they are not as strong as traditional bridges. To extend the lifespan of your bridge, you should avoid biting your nails, chewing on hard objects, and using your teeth to open packages.
Though the abutment will be covered by a crown, this tooth is still susceptible to decay if debris becomes trapped beneath the restoration. To preserve the health of your smile, you should practice good oral hygiene. Brush twice each day and floss daily, and schedule biannual visits to your dentist's office. With proper care, bridges can last 10 or more years.
The Benefits of a Cantilever Bridge
Like traditional bridges, cantilever bridges can restore your bite and your ability to eat comfortably. They also enable those who would not otherwise qualify for a bridge to receive a fixed restoration. Replacing missing teeth can prevent other teeth from shifting and protect you from misalignment. Of course, bridges also have important cosmetic advantages. A complete smile can renew your confidence and encourage you to smile and laugh freely.