If you lose one or more teeth due to periodontal disease, or another cause, there is hope. Dental implants are changing the way people live! They are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel, and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat virtually anything and can smile with confidence, knowing that teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved. Patients with dental implants can smile with confidence.
What is an implant?
An implant is a metal anchor that is placed in the jawbone. Once integrated with your bone, the implant can be used to support a crown, a bridge or secure a removable appliance. The dental implants used by most dentists and dental specialists are root-form implants, which means that they are used to replace natural tooth roots in areas of the mouth where teeth are missing. Dental implants provide an exciting option for people missing some or all of their teeth.
There are many benefits to having dental implants. When teeth are lost, ongoing shrinkage of the jawbone occurs, which can cause the face to look older. This shrinkage can also make adequate fit of a partial or full denture difficult. Placing implants can slow or stop this process. Dental implants look, feel and function like natural teeth and offer a tremendous improvement in comfort, speech, eating and convenience over conventional partial and full dentures.
Single Tooth Implants
While a single tooth can be replaced with a removable appliance, the looks, function and convenience of a “permanent” replacement are far superior. In the past this could only be accomplished with a bridge, where the teeth on either side of the missing tooth are crowned, with the replacement tooth connected to the crowns.
This is an excellent restoration, but many people would prefer not to have to “prepare” or cut down, the adjacent teeth. Today, dental implants have become so predictable they are now the standard of care to replace single missing teeth instead of a bridge.
The advantages of implants over bridges include:
- It is not necessary to drill down the adjacent natural teeth to make crowns
- The teeth remain separate, making cleaning and flossing easier
- If a bridge fails, the entire bridge must be removed, Implants are stand-alone
Multiple Tooth Implants
Multiple tooth implants are used to replace several teeth that are missing. This can be done by either placing implants side-by-side or by placing implants at each end of a gap and placing a crown and bridge restoration on top. Once placed, a multiple tooth implant will feel and perform like natural teeth.
Full arch implants are used to replace an entire upper or lower arch of teeth. This is done by strategically placing implants along the upper or lower jaw and attaching a denture-like attachment over abutments on the implant posts. Once placed, a full arch of teeth using the implants as support will feel and perform like natural teeth.
The advantages of implant supported removable appliance include:
- More secure retention and fit of appliance, improving function and comfort
- Less stress on any remaining natural teeth holding the appliance
- Reduction or elimination of bone shrinkage where implants placed
- Eliminated the need to “cut down” the neighboring teeth to make a bridge
- Maintains the jawbone structure
- Feels and functions like natural teeth
- Does not rely on other teeth for support
- Replaces partial plates and may be used to secure loose dentures
- Cleaned and flossed like a natural tooth
There are actually two phases to implant dentistry.
Phase 1: Using very accurate surgical techniques, an incision is made in the gum tissues and implants are placed into dimensionally controlled sites (depth and width) in the jawbone. First, the gum tissue is opened and the jaw bone is tapped with a small drill and then drilled with a wider drill. The implant is inserted into place. The gum tissues are then closed and the healing phase begins. This may take anywhere from 3-6 months to ensure a strong foundation to support a tooth.
Phase 2: An abutment is secured o the top of the implant. Finally, the restorative dentist will place a new crown onto the implant abutment. Implants can replace a single tooth, several teeth or secure your dentures.