Implant-supported bridges are a commonly recommended prosthetic solution for restoration of spaces caused by missing teeth. They, unlike tooth-supported bridges, are supported by dental implants and do not involve the grinding of natural tooth structure. The adjacent natural teeth are left untouched. This is, therefore, a biologically conservative option.
Implant bridges may be either short span, where they replace 2-4 teeth, or long-span, replacing more than 4 teeth and even up to an entire arch of teeth. As the name suggests, Implant-supported bridges consist of a minimum of 2 implants on which a bridge is retained by retention screws.
Spaces created by missing teeth are connected by false teeth called pontics. Pontics are ‘linking units’ which hold the retaining crowns of the bridge together. The entire bridge is made of ceramic fused to noble metal alloys. Short span implant bridges in particular, have been documented to have survival rates of up to 20 years.
Implant bridges, which have a longer span, are subjected to greater stresses. Therefore, 3 or more implants are required to adequately support the bridging framework.
Implants can also be used to replace a full arch of missing teeth – usually 4 or more in number. This is referred to as an implant-supported full-arch fixed bridge.
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A comprehensive examination
During the initial examination, radiographs are taken for a detailed representation of your mouth. A full mouth periodontal examination is undertaken to assess the condition of your gums. Using this information, a comprehensive and personalised treatment plan is carefully formulated.
Inserting dental implants
During this procedure, a precise number of ‘screw channels’ are created using implant drills at the site of the missing teeth and 2 or more implants are placed at the planned sites.
When necessary, the implants are restored with cover screws and the gums closed for healing. In other cases, healing caps/ abutments are placed on the implants.
In aesthetically demanding sites, temporary implant bridges are inserted to mould the gums to the desired shape prior to insertion of the final prosthesis.
A period of healing is required to allow the jaw bone to fuse with the implant – a process known as osseointegration. This may take 3-6 months depending upon the site of implant placement, medical condition and bone quality of the individual patient.
Fabricating the bridge
Following healing and osseointegration, impressions are taken and the jaw relationship/ bite is recorded for fabrication of the implant bridge. These records are then sent to a trusted laboratory where skilled technicians fabricate your implant bridge to perfection.
Insert and follow-up
The permanent implant bridge is fabricated, checked for accuracy of fit and bite on a model in the laboratory. Following this, a try-in of fit, shape, shade and appearance is carried out in the mouth. The implant bridge is then inserted onto the implants in the mouth. Follow up appointments are arranged to ensure that the implant site and bridge are closely monitored over the next few months.