There are three types of dental abutment: bridge abutment, implant abutment and partial denture abutment. An abutment, whether natural or a prosthesis, acts as an anchor for a second prosthetic tooth. These are necessary to restore teeth lost either to periodontal disease or accident. Inserting an abutment is generally a multistage process that requires more than one trip to a dentist or oral surgeon. After insertion of the dental abutment and prosthesis, a patient's mouth is cosmetically correct and he or she can resume normal eating.
A dental abutment can be necessary for a number of reasons. In most developed countries, the primary cause is periodontal disease that requires the extraction of one or more teeth. Other causes include accidents that involve damage to the mouth and teeth. Sports injuries, for example, can require the same procedures done for an individual with advanced periodontal disease. Depending on one's specific condition, more than one type of dental abutment may be appropriate.
If a patient presents with a single missing tooth, a dentist will most likely decide to use a bridge abutment. For this dental abutment, the natural teeth next to the gap acts as the abutment. A dentist places crowns on top of the two natural teeth, the prosthetic tooth connected in the middle. With the natural teeth acting as the anchor, the artificial tooth has the same strength and utility as the surrounding teeth.
An implant abutment is a treatment option for losing one or more teeth. For example, if a patient loses three back molars, an oral surgeon begins by inserting metal screws into the bone at the first and third gaps. Once the mouth has healed and the tissue grown around the anchors, the metal screws become the abutment for three artificial teeth connected as a single unit. After a healing process, a patient feels no difference between the implant and natural teeth.
A partial denture abutment is the last type of dental abutment. A natural tooth or an artificial anchor can act as the abutment. If artificial, a patient must undergo the procedure described in the previous paragraph. The difference is that the abutment acts an anchor for dentures, a series of artificial teeth that a patient can remove and clean. A partial denture abutment is a more popular choice for patients, as the cost of a permanent implant abutment is generally higher; the trade off, though, is that a partial denture abutment is less cosmetically pleasing.