Oftentimes there are situations in which dental implants themselves might not be the right choice to replace missing teeth. This could be dictated by budget concerns, lack of sufficient bone, fear, or cosmetic desires.
Other than dental implants, the only other fixed solution for tooth replacement is a dental bridge. The replacement teeth on a dental bridge are connected and suspended by the supporting crowns that fit over adjacent teeth.
These replacement teeth, called "pontics," touch the tissue in the place where the teeth are to go, in such a way as to make them appear to be stand-alone teeth erupting from the gum. They have an intimate fit to the tissue in such a way as to prevent sticking of food, but not so tight as to not allow flossing underneath.
Ante's Law is a rule, generally used as a guide, which says that the "roots" of the support teeth should be equal to or greater than the "roots" being replaced. Sometimes the span of the desired bridge does not follow this law and additional support would be desired. Sometimes the adjacent teeth are weakened by prior restorations or root canals. In either of these cases, mini dental implants can act as an additional support, just like a tooth. In these cases, instead of the pontic replacement tooth hovering over the tissue, the mini dental implant supports it, adding to the strength and allowing stretching of Ante's Law.
Because of the ease of mini implant placement, they can be incorporated in any treatment plan that requires extra support for bridges. They have the added advantage that they are not subject to tooth decay.
Like teeth they are subject to gum disease. As with any and all dental restorations, proper homecare and periodic professional maintenance is required to keep things in tip top shape.
It is my hope that anyone with missing teeth finds a workable, strong solution that feels and looks natural.
James G. Jenkins, D.M.D. is the owner of Bluffton Dental Care in Bluffton.