As with most treatment procedures in dentistry today, dental implants not only involve
scientific discovery, research and understanding, but also application in clinical practice.
A dental implant is actually a replacement for the root or roots of a tooth. Like tooth
roots, dental implants are secured in the jawbone and are not visible once surgically
placed. They are used to secure crowns (the parts of teeth seen in the mouth),
bridgework or dentures by a variety of means. They are made of titanium, which is
lightweight, strong and biocompatible, which means that it is not rejected by the body.
Titanium and titanium alloys are the most widely used metals in both dental and other
bone implants, such as orthopedic joint replacements. Dental implants have the highest
success rate of any implanted surgical device.
The big question is, “Are dental implants right for me?”
If you have lost teeth you are a candidate for dental implants. It is important that you are in good
health, however, as there are some conditions and diseases that can affect whether dental
implants are right for you.
Where and how implants are placed requires a detailed assessment of your overall stomato-
gnathic system (“stoma” – mouth; “gnathic” – jaws), within which the teeth function. This will
necessitate compiling records that include study models of your mouth and bite, and specialized
radiographs (x-rays), which may include 3D scans known as computerized tomograms (CT scans).
Planning with the help of computer imaging ensures that dental implants can be placed in exactly
the right position in the bone.
How can bone be preserved or re-grown to support dental implants?
Grafting bone into the extraction sockets at the time of tooth loss or removal can help preserve
bone volume needed for implant placement. Surgical techniques are also available to regenerate
(re-grow) bone that has been lost, to provide the necessary bone substance for anchoring
implants. In fact, a primary reason to consider dental implants to replace missing teeth is the
maintenance of jawbone.
Bone needs stimulation to stay healthy. Because dental implants fuse to the bone, they stabilize it
and prevent further bone loss. Resorption is a normal and inevitable process in which bone is lost
when it is no longer supporting or connected to teeth. Only dental implants can stop this process
and preserve the bone.
What are the options for implant tooth replacement?
Single Tooth Replacement:
Immediately (at the same time an implant is placed) or after a
period of healing, an abutment is attached to the implant. This is a device that “abuts” or joins the
implant to a tooth form called a crown, which replaces the tooth part you see in the mouth.
It will hold a custom-made crown that the dental laboratory will fabricate and match to your
existing teeth. The custom crown is cemented or screwed onto the abutment to permanently keep
it in place. Once the crown is in place, it should be indistinguishable from your natural teeth.
Fixed Multiple Tooth Replacement:
As with single tooth replacement, temporary healing
caps or abutments may be placed on multiple implants until the healing phase is complete. After
healing, permanent abutments are attached to the implants.
They can attach to custom-made crowns or bridgework that a dental laboratory will fabricate to
match your existing teeth. In the final step, the custom bridge, which will replace multiple teeth, is
cemented or screwed onto the abutments. The teeth have been replaced without disturbing the
healthy teeth next to them, and bone loss has been halted.
Removable Implant-Supported Tooth Replacement:
If all of your lower teeth are
missing, depending on the design of the removable restoration, two to six implants may be used to
support a lower denture. If all of your upper teeth are missing, a minimum of four implants may
be used to support an upper denture. Removable dentures are often used to replace extensive
tooth, bone and gum-tissue loss, thus providing support for the facial skeleton, lip and cheeks.
A new denture can have attachments that snap or clip it into place on the implants or a custom
made, milled bar can be fabricated to create additional strength and support for the restoration.
Design variations are often related to your bone density and number of implants present; your
dentist will discuss these options during your consultation. A significant advantage of a removable
denture is facilitating the cleaning of the dental implants.
How do implant tooth replacements differ from teeth?
Natural teeth and dental implants may look the same, feel the same, and even function in a similar
way, but they are very different. The most important differences are in the way they attach to the
surrounding bone, their response to dental disease, their maintenance, and repair.
Teeth are susceptible to dental decay as well as the need for root canal therapy; dental implants
are metal and do not decay or need root canal. implant.
What type of maintenance do dental implants require?
Implant crowns and other prosthetic (false) tooth replacements are made to be remarkably failsafe
systems. They are removable and replaceable (only by your dentist), so that if damage or wear
necessitates replacement, this can be accomplished without affecting the implant(s) or attachment
to the bone.
Nevertheless, implants do require maintenance. It is important to practice good daily oral hygiene,
including brushing and flossing to control bacterial biofilm. It is also important to see your dentist
and dental hygienist.
Your dentist will need to monitor your implants to make sure the integrity of the osseointegration
is stable, and that the implant crowns, bridgework or dentures are functioning adequately.