First and foremost dental implants look, feel and function like your natural teeth. Your natural teeth don’t need to be ground down as is the case with bridgework. Dental implants eliminate the discomfort, dysfunction and sometimes embarrassment seen with partial and full dentures.
To summarize, dental implants provide a secure, permanent solution to permanent tooth replacement.
What exactly is a dental implant? An implant is an artificial replacement of a natural tooth. It looks like a spiral cylinder or screw which is made mostly of titanium and is compatible with your jawbone.
Dental implants are surgically placed into your upper and/or lower jaw bones. They thus act as anchors for your replacement teeth.
There are two distinct procedures involved when having the total implant procedure done:
1. The actual surgical procedure to place the implant. It is usually done by an implant Surgeon (usually a Periodontist or an Oral Surgeon). This involves a procedure called an osteotomy whereby a hole is drilled into the bone. The length and the width of the hole are determined by the anatomy of the jawbone. Subsequently the correctly-sized implant is well-secured into the hole. Sutures are often placed to close the gum flaps.
2. The restorative procedure is done by an implant restorative dentist (prosthodontist or general dentist).
There are two separate stages:
1. Placement of a porcelain or titanium abutment into the implant.
2. Lastly, a beautiful custom-made porcelain crown is inserted permanently onto the abutment to finally restore the beautiful smile you once had or want to have.
There are several so-called implant scenarios:
Single Implant Scenario:
This is by far the most common scenario as a single missing tooth is the most common problem seen. A single tooth implant is a permanent fixed replacement for the root of a single missing tooth. It is a self-supporting whereby the adjacent teeth need not be touched or “prepared” with a drill.
Many times a patient has a bad tooth that has to be extracted. They often want an implant placed at the time of extraction. In many cases this can be done with simultaneous bone grafting. This scenario saves a lot of time. If it cannot be done (50% of the cases) a bone graft must first be done at the time of the extraction (ridge augmentation or socket graft); an implant can then be placed in three months (similar to a fractured bone).
Regardless of when the implant is placed it always takes at least 3 months for it to integrate or “bond” to the jaw bone. After the implant integrates your restorative dentist then inserts the abutment over which a cap or porcelain crown is placed to finally permanently recreate your missing natural tooth.
It is now becoming more prevalent for a temporary acrylic crown to be placed at the same time the implant is placed provided that the implant is anchored tightly into the bone. In this case the crown is not yet placed into function or failure can occur. Why is this being done? Because some patients do not want a removable Flipper to replace their missing tooth while the dental implant is integrating; Flippers are often very uncomfortable to wear and it can affect one’s speech. This immediate temporary crown involves more expense and is most commonly done on front teeth where cosmetics is critical.
An implant supported bridge replaces several missing teeth without affecting or using your adjacent natural teeth. In this case our specialists will place only two implants and then construct a permanent bridge to replace the three originally missing natural teeth.
If you are missing all of your teeth an implant-supported overdenture can be made using as few as 4 or sometimes only 2 implants to hold the denture firmly to your upper or lower jaw and allow you to look and function naturally. In this case a crown is not necessary for each implant. Rather a sort of rubber gasket is placed into the denture. This rubber gasket then inserts over a special metal attachment which is screwed into the top of the implant. This is what you call a ball and socket connection.
In summary, dental implants are becoming the standard way of replacing missing teeth. They are more comfortable and even last longer than traditional methods such as bridgework and dentures.