Dental bridges are used as a fixed replacement for missing teeth. In the past, this was the best way to replace teeth in either the front or the back of the mouth.

The only problem with them is that they are subject to recurrent decay, which can lead to the bridge failing. Oftentimes when this is discovered, either by a dentist examination or by the bridge falling out of your mouth unexpectedly, it is too late to save the bridge.

This is a real problem, because multiple teeth are already missing and now the anchor tooth (or teeth) is also going to be missing, which leaves nothing to attach to.

The second problem is that the bridge is usually older and the teeth it was meant to replace have been missing for a number of years. The significance of this is that when teeth are lost, the bone begins to shrink in height and width.

At this point, replacing the teeth with traditional dental implants is a real challenge due to lack of bone. Oftentimes, this leads to extensive bone grafts, which are expensive and take a long time to heal.

Compounding this dilemma, the implants placed require time to “knit” with the bone. All the while, you are without fixed teeth – and this process can take one to two years.

Traditional implants are great and very predictable for a lot of situations. However, this problem is much more simply solved with the use of mini dental implants.

Since mini dental implants do not require as much bone, they can be placed at the same time the failing bridge is removed. Temporary teeth can be supported by them at this same visit, immediately restoring the function and cosmetics desired by the patient.

In addition to the time and cost savings of mini dental implants, there is no major surgery or cutting of the tissue, which leads to minimal, if any, post-operative discomfort.

This is ideal for the older population to whom this most often applies, as they are more likely to have medical conditions that could complicate the placing of traditional implants.

There are also solutions for removable partial and full denture wearers. At the time you received your tooth replacement, mini dental implants were not available as an option.

Most people find partial dentures to be uncomfortable. By the same method outlined above, many patients have been able to throw their partial denture away and have enjoyed the security of fixed tooth replacements.

The newest trend is for denture wearers as well. Mini dental implants can still be used to stabilize loose removable dentures. Now, the trend is toward total arch fixed tooth replacement for now former denture wearers.

You have a choice and can take advantage of the rapidly advancing technological age we live in. Mini dental implants are now a very viable option for a variety of dental teeth replacement situations, especially with the failing dental bridge.

James G. Jenkins, D.M.D. is the owner of Bluffton Dental Care in Bluffton.