When you were a child, missing teeth were a cause for celebration, and depositing them under your pillow yielded a fortune in loose change. Best of all, you knew a brand new tooth would always grow in to fill the gap in your smile.
Adults tend to view tooth loss a little differently -- there's no cash prize anymore, nor will any more natural teeth appear to replace your pearly whites.
However, your dentist can still restore a natural-looking smile with a variety of options, including prosthetics and dental implants. These appliances are even secure enough to allow normal speaking and chewing, thanks to a strong foundation, called an abutment.
A dental abutment is a fixed point in your mouth used to anchor an artificial tooth or prosthesis. Typically, your dentist will use your surrounding teeth to hold new dental work in place. In other cases, he or she may implant a small post to provide a proper fit. Because the new tooth (or teeth) is fastened to the sturdiest parts of your smile, it feels and functions similar your natural teeth.
When Is an Abutment Needed?
There are several scenarios when your dentist will need to use an abutment. For a dental bridge or dentures, which can have one or more artificial teeth attached, your natural teeth provide adequate support. In the case of dental implants, your dentist will place a specially created metal abutment for each new tooth.
Dental Bridges -- Because dental bridges don't need to be removed once they are placed, the false teeth are permanently attached to a dental crown on each of the surrounding "abutment" teeth.
Removable Partial Dentures -- Unlike bridgework, removable partial dentures attach to tiny clasps on your natural teeth or dental crowns. As with dental bridges, these abutments share the pressure of chewing in order allow normal tooth function.
Dental Implants -- For dental implants, your dentist will use oral surgery to place a metal abutment in your jaw for maximum support. This small post provides an anchor strong enough for a dental crown to be placed on top without being fixed to other teeth.
Talk to Your Dentist
Whether you're experiencing natural tooth loss, have had an injury to the mouth or must have a tooth extraction, it's important to discuss your condition with your dentist. Not only can a missing tooth affect your ability to eat certain foods or speak clearly, it may be a sign of infection or gum disease, which can affect other healthy teeth in your mouth. In these cases, gum disease treatment may be necessary prior to creating your restoration.
During your appointment, your dentist can recommend the best method for restoring your smile. Ask as many questions as you can, including finding out what type of dental abutment your dentist will use to ensure you'll be fully satisfied with the end result.