In dentistry, many words which seem to relate only to dentistry, actually stem from Latin “root” words, and are used in a variety of other fields as well. One such word, is “abutment,” which takes its root from the word “abut” meaning to share a common boundary with something else, or to “touch or lean upon.” An “abutment,” then, is a connective element.
For example, in the world of engineering, an abutment is the portion of a structure built below ground to support the weight of the structure above it. So, in the case of a home, the basement functions as an abutment (or, “substructure”) to the portion of the home that is above ground. The same can be said of bridges, which require a strong substructure to support its span across land or water.
In dentistry, this same material logic applies to the support our teeth need once they require restoration. There are essentially three types of abutments that occur in restorative dentistry as explained by this dental code.
Bridge Abutments: with a bridge abutment, the two healthy teeth on the opposing ends of the area requiring the bridge are trimmed slightly to accommodate the prosthetic bridge and act as the support (abutment) for the bridge itself.
Partial Denture Abutments: this type of abutment can utilize a vast array of supportive elements including healthy teeth, plastic, metal, and even the soft tissues of the gums themselves. The extent to which supports are used is dependent on the number of healthy teeth remaining in the mouth.
Implant Abutments: implant abutments are conical-shaped, and are screwed into a dental implant integrated into the jawbone. Today, the most common form of implant abutments are made of tooth colored material to add a more natural look to the crown that covers the abutment. This type of abutment allows the crown to blend more appropriately with adjacent teeth as is the case with the high noble metal resin crowns and porcelain-fused to noble metal crowns.