Bridges are a traditional method to replace a missing tooth or teeth. To replace a missing tooth with a bridge, at least one tooth on either side of the space created by the missing tooth must be prepared for a crown. Then a false tooth is joined to the crowns, and the entire structure is cemented to the prepared teeth. The patient cannot remove the bridge, and special aids are available to keep it clean.
Many cleft lip and palate patients exhibit missing teeth in the area of the cleft and would benefit from a prosthodontist’s care in the management of these areas. Although most cleft palates are now successfully closed surgically, there are patients who require an obturator to close the palatal defect, whether it is congenital or acquired. A prosthodontist possesses the skills necessary to fabricate an obturator that will improve the patient's speech and swallowing.
Congenital and Developmental Mouth Defects
Many patients are missing certain teeth because the teeth never developed or may be misshapen. A prosthodontist can determine the best way to replace and/or restore these teeth. Other patients exhibit teeth with poorly developed tooth structure throughout the mouth and require a prosthodontist’s expertise in restoring these teeth to proper form and function.
Crowns cover or "cap" a tooth to restore the normal function and appearance of the tooth. Crowns may be made as all metal, porcelain fused to metal or all ceramic (porcelain). Crowns are indicated for teeth with very large fillings, teeth that have had a root canal, fractured teeth and misshapen and/or discolored teeth.
Today’s dental implants are typically made of titanium and may be parallel-sided or tapered. These fixtures are placed into the jawbone and allowed to heal until they are "integrated" into the bone. Dental implants may be used to replace one, many or all of a patient’s teeth.
When a patient no longer has any natural teeth, complete dentures are the traditional method to restore function and appearance. Many patients experience difficulty wearing conventional dentures because of poor stability and decreased chewing function. The use of dental implants greatly improves the stability and retention of dentures.
Many patients are interested in improving the appearance of their smile. Prosthodontists are the dental specialists who long ago determined what constitutes a pleasing smile. Teeth whitening, reshaping natural teeth, bonding of tooth-colored material to teeth and porcelain veneers are procedures commonly used to modify a smile.
Removable Partial Dentures
When there are multiple missing teeth, weak anchor teeth or no posterior teeth to anchor on, a removable partial denture is used to replace teeth. These restorations typically are made of a metal framework and a plastic base with teeth. They must be removed for daily cleaning and at night.
Teeth Grinding/Night Guards
Often patients who grind their teeth at night are unaware of their habit, but the forces exerted on both the teeth and the Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) can be quite destructive. A custom-made night guard can protect the teeth and relieve pressure on the TMJ.
Many products are now available for patients to whiten their teeth. These products include commercially available strips, custom fabricated trays with a beaching gel or bleaching in a dental office using UV light or laser as the catalyst.
Many patients use this acronym to refer to the painful symptoms related to Temporomandibular Joint dysfunction. Symptoms may include pain in the joint itself, pain in the muscles of mastication and limited movement of the lower jaw.
Sleep apnea refers to a temporary cessation of breathing while sleeping. Many times the airway is obstructed by the patient’s anatomy, and the placement of a specially designed night guard that repositions the lower jaw can improve the airflow.
Porcelain veneers are used to modify the shape and color of teeth. Veneers are thin shells of porcelain that are etched and then bonded to the enamel of the teeth. Tooth preparation is necessary to avoid over bulking of the tooth, but it is limited to the enamel and usually involves only a few surfaces of the tooth.