What is a Pontic in Dentistry? A Beginner’s Guide on How It Works and How to Maintain It

What is a Pontic

A pontic is a crucial procedure in dental prosthetics, serving for closing or making abutments between the gaping tooth spaces uses dentures. Understanding what a pontic is, its purpose, and how to maintain it is essential for anyone considering or currently using a dental bridge. This beginner’s guide will explain the definition and types of a pontic, its role in restoring functionality and aesthetics in dentistry, and provide essential tips for caring and maintaining its condition to ensure long-lasting dental health.


Table of Contents


Definition of a Pontic

At its core, a pontic, or often called bridge, is the artificial tooth on a dental bridge. Crafted from durable materials like porcelain or metal, it meticulously replicates the appearance and function of a natural tooth. The pontic bridges the gap left by the missing tooth, seamlessly integrating with the surrounding teeth for a natural look and a comfortable feel.

Type of Pontic

Pontics come in various designs to address different needs and preferences. As outlined in this journal, four main types of pontics are commonly used. Here’s an overview of each:

  • Traditional Pontic: This is the most common type, attached to the crowns placed on the healthy teeth on either side of the gap. The pontic itself replaces the missing tooth and can be made from various materials like porcelain or metal.
  • Cantilever Pontic: This design is used when there’s only one healthy tooth next to the missing tooth. The pontic extends out from the crowned tooth, placing more stress on it. Due to this, cantilever pontics are generally less common than traditional ones.
  • Maryland Pontic: Unlike traditional pontics that require crowns on healthy teeth, a Maryland pontic utilizes metal wings that are bonded to the backs of the healthy teeth on either side of the gap. The pontic itself is made of porcelain or composite resin to mimic the appearance of a natural tooth.
  • Implant-Supported Pontic: This type offers the most stability and longevity. Here, a dental implant is surgically placed in the jawbone to act as an artificial root for the pontic. This option provides excellent support and prevents bone loss in the area of the missing tooth.


Purpose of a Pontic

The primary purpose of a pontic is to replace a missing tooth and restore both the function and appearance (aesthetics) of a patient’s smile. Missing teeth can lead to several problems, including difficulty chewing, speech issues, and a negative impact on confidence and facial structure. This section explores the various benefits of pontics and their contribution to overall dental health.

Restoring Functionality

  • Chewing Efficiency: Teeth are essential for breaking down food for proper digestion. A missing tooth can make chewing certain foods difficult or even painful. By filling the gap, a pontic helps restore efficient chewing, ensuring proper nutrition.
  • Speech Improvement: Teeth play a crucial role in articulation and speech clarity. Missing teeth, especially in the front, can cause speech impediments like lisping or difficulty pronouncing certain words. A pontic can restore normal speech patterns by providing the necessary structure for tongue and lip movements.

Aesthetic Enhancement

  • Smile Restoration: A missing tooth can significantly affect a smile, leading to self-consciousness and reduced confidence. A well-designed pontic can blend seamlessly with natural teeth, restoring a beautiful, natural-looking smile and boosting confidence.
  • Facial Structure Support: Teeth provide support to facial muscles and skin. Missing teeth can cause the face to sag or look sunken, adding years to one’s appearance. A pontic helps maintain the natural shape and contour of the face by providing structural support.

Preventing Dental Issues

  • Maintaining Tooth Alignment: When a tooth is missing, surrounding teeth may start to shift into the empty space. This can lead to misalignment and bite problems (malocclusion). By filling the gap, a pontic prevents neighboring teeth from drifting out of position, maintaining proper alignment and a healthy bite.
  • Avoiding Jawbone Loss: The roots of natural teeth stimulate the jawbone, maintaining its density and strength. When a tooth is lost, the lack of stimulation can lead to bone resorption (loss). While pontics don’t replace the root, they can help distribute biting forces more evenly, minimizing bone loss. Implant-supported pontics are particularly effective in preventing jawbone deterioration.

Health and Hygiene

  • Easier Cleaning: Gaps created by missing teeth can trap food particles and bacteria, leading to plaque buildup and gum disease. A pontic helps close these gaps, making it easier to maintain good oral hygiene and prevent periodontal problems.
  • Preventing Overgrowth: Opposing teeth can sometimes grow longer into the space left by a missing tooth, known as supra-eruption. This can lead to further dental complications. A pontic helps prevent supra-eruption by providing a surface for the opposing tooth to bite against.

Psychological and Social Benefits

  • Boosting Self-Esteem: Missing teeth can affect self-esteem and social interactions. People may feel embarrassed to smile or speak freely. A pontic can restore confidence by providing a natural-looking replacement, encouraging positive self-image and promoting positive social interactions.
  • Improving Quality of Life: Overall, the ability to eat, speak, and smile freely without hesitation greatly improves the quality of life. Pontics play a vital role in ensuring individuals can enjoy these daily activities with confidence and comfort.


How to Properly Care for Your Pontic

Proper care extends the life and beauty of your pontic, regardless of type (either traditional or implant). Consistent oral hygiene and dental visits are key.

Daily Oral Hygiene Routine

  • Brushing: Brushing teeth twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste is recommended. Pay particular attention to the pontic area, ensuring thorough cleaning around and underneath it.
  • Flossing: Daily flossing removes plaque and food particles from between teeth and under the pontic. Utilize a floss threader or specialized floss designed for bridges and implants to effectively clean around the pontic.
  • Interdental Brushes or Water Flossers: Consider incorporating interdental brushes or water flossers into your routine. These tools can effectively clean hard-to-reach areas around the pontic and under the bridge, where traditional floss may not reach adequately.

Avoid Damaging Habits

  • Chewing Hard Foods: Pontics, particularly those made of porcelain or resin, are susceptible to chipping or breaking when subjected to excessive force. Avoid biting on hard objects like ice, hard candies, or using your teeth to open packages.
  • Smoking Cessation: Smoking can stain pontics and increase the risk of gum disease and other oral health problems. Quitting smoking not only benefits your overall health but also extends the lifespan of your pontic.



Understanding the role and care of a pontic is essential for maintaining oral health and ensuring the longevity of dental restorations. Pontics not only restore functionality and aesthetics but also prevent further dental complications, improving overall quality of life. For personalized advice and professional dental care, schedule an appointment with Eastman Dental Group to explore the best options for maintaining a healthy, confident smile.