Catalog Number:

Duration: 42 minutes, 26 seconds

Author: Dr. Vinny Celenza

Prosthetic Cantilevers: Friend or Foe?

Cantilevers are a common solution in restorative dentistry for various dental problems. These freestanding structures, supported at one end and extending outward, have been used to great effect in different fields, including architecture and engineering. Some well-known examples of cantilevers include diving boards and Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Falling Waters home. However, when it comes to dental applications, the use of cantilevers can be both a friend and a foe.

1. The Definition of Cantilevers in Dentistry

In restorative dentistry, cantilevers are utilized to address specific issues. These structures are designed to provide support and extension for dental prosthesis. The cantilever is typically anchored to an existing tooth or dental implant at one end, allowing it to extend and provide functional support.

2. The Potential Benefits of Cantilevers

Cantilevers have been proven to be beneficial in certain clinical settings. They offer a solution for cases where traditional dental prostheses cannot be used due to limited available space or insufficient support. By utilizing the principles of cantilever engineering, dentists can confidently address these challenges, restoring function and aesthetics for their patients.

3. The Importance of Choosing the Right Clinical Setting

While cantilevers can be successful, it is crucial to choose the right clinical setting for their usage. Incorrect placement or inadequate assessment of the patient’s oral condition can lead to potential issues down the line. It is essential for dentists to carefully evaluate factors such as the patient’s oral health, occlusal forces, and bone density before opting for a cantilever solution.

4. Potential Issues with Cantilevers

While cantilevers offer unique advantages, they can also present certain challenges. Dentists and patients should be aware of potential issues that may arise with cantilevered prosthetics. These can include:

a. Color Changes:

In some cases, the cantilevered prosthesis may exhibit color differences compared to the adjacent natural teeth. This disparity can be noticeable and affect the overall aesthetics of the restoration.

b. Margin Showing:

Improper design or placement of the cantilever can lead to the exposure of the margin, where the prosthesis meets the natural tooth or dental implant. This can result in unaesthetic outcomes and potential oral health concerns.

c. Gingival Recession:

Due to the unbalanced stresses placed on the cantilevered prosthesis, there is a risk of increased gingival recession. This can lead to discomfort for the patient and potential complications requiring further treatment.


Prosthetic cantilevers in restorative dentistry offer unique solutions for challenging clinical cases. However, their success relies on careful assessment, proper design, and meticulous execution. Dentists and patients should be aware of the potential benefits and drawbacks of using cantilevers, allowing them to make informed decisions regarding their dental treatments.


1. Are cantilevered prosthetics appropriate for everyone?

No, cantilevers are not suitable for every patient. The decision to use cantilevers depends on various factors such as the patient’s oral health, available space, and occlusal forces. A thorough evaluation by a qualified dentist is necessary to determine their suitability.

2. Can color changes be prevented with cantilevered prosthetics?

Color differences between a cantilevered prosthesis and natural teeth can occur due to various reasons, including differences in materials and shade selection. Close collaboration between the dentist and dental technician can help minimize color discrepancies, but complete prevention may not always be achievable.

3. Will the exposed margin of a cantilevered prosthesis cause any problems?

An exposed margin can potentially lead to oral health concerns such as plaque accumulation and gum irritation. Proper design and placement of the cantilever, as well as regular dental hygiene practices, are essential in minimizing such problems.

4. Is gingival recession a common issue with cantilevers?

Gingival recession can occur in some cases due to the mechanical stresses placed on the cantilevered prosthesis. Dentists should carefully assess the patient’s oral condition and take preventive measures, such as providing adequate support and reducing mechanical strain, to minimize the risk of gingival recession.

5. Are there any alternatives to cantilevered prosthetics?

Yes, there are alternative treatment options available, depending on the specific needs of the patient. Dental implants, bridges, or removable dentures may be considered as alternatives to cantilevered prosthetics. A comprehensive evaluation and consultation with a dentist will help determine the most suitable solution for each individual case.

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