As we get older, many Americans are dealing with missing, broken or otherwise unhealthy teeth. Modern advances in dental implants are promoted as a permanent solution to major dental problems, leading more and more people to ask themselves: What are full arch implants and are they right for me?
Dental implants replace missing teeth with a crown (single tooth) or bridge (multiple teeth). A titanium insert supports the implants, by fusing itself into the upper or lower jawbone through a process called osteo-integration. Some patients require only a single implant to replace one failing tooth. A failing tooth is what dentists call a tooth that is broken, chipped, unhealthy, or missing.
Teeth fail for a variety of reasons.
Bacteria create acids. Acids cause cavities that break down the enamel of the tooth’s surface, ultimately exposing the nerves inside, causing pain, infection, and tooth loss. Fillings and root canals can save the tooth in the short term, but the stresses of eating and chewing will eventually cause these teeth to fail.
Gum disease weakens teeth by exposing the root to these same types of bacterial acids.
Trauma caused by blows to the face in sports or accidents may also result in missing teeth.
More failing teeth mean more trips to the dentist for more and more costly procedures that still may not fix the problem in the long term.
So, what are full arch implants?
A full-arch implant-supported dental bridge provides patients with a naturally beautiful set of teeth and gums secured to a series of titanium implants. These bridges are not removable by the patient, but they are ‘retrievable’ by the dentist for hygienic procedures or adjustments. Many people think of them as dentures that you don’t take out at night.
Because dental implants secure the bridge, it experiences significant stresses while biting, chewing, and speaking. Therefore, it’s extremely important that the bridge be a strong material that doesn’t chip, crack or break. Many full-arch implant bridges consist of acrylic and denture teeth, adhered to a metal bar connected to the implants. Every one of these plastic bridges will eventually need replacement. If they don’t chip, break, crack, or lose teeth, they will still wear down over time.
Acrylic full-arch implant bridges attract plaque and bacteria that can cause infections under the bridge and destabilize the dental implants themselves.
Our practice at Teeth Tomorrow Manhattan delivers full arch implant solutions using the Prettau® Zirconia bridge. The Prettau® Zirconia bridge is custom-milled from a single piece of arguably the best material available for dental prosthetics. It doesn’t chip, break, crack, or attract plaque, and is the only bridge backed by 2 landmark studies of over 2,000 cases and a 99+% success rate.
The Differences in Full Arch Dental Implants
A full-arch permanent bridge anchored by dental implants is the perfect solution for many patients suffering from major dental problems. The implants provide a permanent foundation for the bridge, which replaces the full set of teeth and gums on upper and lower jaws.
Most bridges are made in one of two ways:
- Liquid acrylic resin is poured into a mold containing a metal bar. Once the acrylic hardens, traditional denture teeth are added and the bridge is attached to the implants.
- The Full Arch Prettau® Bridge is precision-milled from a solid block of Zirconia, hand-colored and polished to match natural teeth and gums, and anchored to the implants.
Both solutions use implants, but the difference in material significantly affects the bridge’s final look, feel, and performance over time. Remember, the bridge itself must stand up to the daily wear-and-tear of eating and talking. It should look natural, be comfortable, and stand up to daily life without cracking, chipping, or staining.
So how do you choose between Acrylic and Prettau® Zirconia?
There are three basic points to consider when selecting a full-arch dental-implant-supported bridge:
- Fit & Function
- Acrylic bridges with denture teeth are more fragile and over time tend to chip, crack or break. A damaged bridge puts stress on the supporting implants and results in bridge movement during chewing and talking.
- Prettau® Zirconia bridges are much more stable and actually form a supporting structure that minimizes any movement and stress on the implants.
- While acrylic bridges with denture teeth are cheaper than Prettau® Zirconia bridges, they fail much more frequently. Acrylic bridges will eventually need replacement. Eating and speaking take a steady and gradual toll, breaking down the acrylic and attracting plaque and bacteria. Bacteria under a non-removable bridge causes infections. These infections can eat into the bone around the implants.
- Prettau® Zirconia costs more than acrylic initially, but is non-porous and much more durable. You may never need repairs or maintenance, which saves you money over time. Solid Prettau® Zirconia bridges withstand significant pressure and resist chipping, fractures and wear. Most importantly, we have experienced no cases of infections under the bridge with our Prettau® patients.
- Over time, acrylic bridges with denture teeth tend to look more and more artificial. They stain easily and are more difficult to clean than solid, non-porous Zirconia.
- Prettau® Zirconia bridges achieve a smile that is virtually indistinguishable from healthy, natural teeth and gums.
- Fit & Function
Comparing the results of our study of 219 Prettau® bridges (as published in the Journal of Prosthetic Dentistry) and a similar study of acrylic bridges with denture teeth yielded some enlightening results:
- Nearly 1 in 4 patients receiving acrylic bridges experienced chipping, breaking, or cracking which was bad enough to require replacement of the final bridge. None of the 153 patients receiving 219 Prettau® Zirconia Bridges between 2012 and 2017 experienced any failure.
- Over 1 in 4 patients receiving acrylic bridges experienced peri-implant pathology. Peri-implant pathology is an inflammatory reaction caused by infection and causing loss of supporting bone tissue surrounding a dental implant. This degenerative condition was totally absent in Prettau® Zirconia as it does not attract plaque or bacteria that cause oral infections.
Failing dental work, some from as far back as the 1960s, affects millions of Americans. Implant dentistry is now a billion-dollar industry. Prettau® Zirconia implant-supported full arch bridges, manufactured and delivered using our Teeth Tomorrow® protocol, continue to provide a permanent solution to major dental issues.
As this became more and more clear, my colleagues and I co-authored Teeth Tomorrow: The Dental Turning Point for Baby-Boomers. This book helps patients understand the differences in treatment options and the best solution for their personal situation. We invite you to read it online, for free.
We’ve also created a list of questions patients can ask any dental practice when considering a full arch restoration. The answers to these 16 questions can help you make an ‘apples to apples’ comparison between services provided, materials used, procedure steps, and success rates for people like you. You can download a printable copy here.
To find out if Teeth Tomorrow is right for you, call our office at (646) 491-8972 or request a consultation online.