Perhaps the greatest advance in the field of dentistry over the past generation has been the advent of the osteointegrated dental implant. Today’s dental implant can provide a patient with the ability to replace partial and full dentures and to restore missing teeth without the necessity of using other teeth as anchors. Fixed bridgework can replace removable partial dentures and implants also allow for the stabilization of previously loose ill-fitting dentures.
In essence, the implant will replace roots of teeth and will allow the dentist to fabricate restorations over these artificial roots. Dental implants 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 their teeth will appear natural.
In order to determine whether an area where a tooth or teeth are missing would be a good site for a dental implant, it may be necessary to do a full radiographic study of the area including a CBCT 3-dimensional scan. Once a determination that the site is satisfactory to accept an implant is confirmed, a complete treatment plan must be determined.
There are many different ways a dental implant and the replacement tooth may be place. In certain cases, it is possible that a replacement tooth can be place over an implant in one visit. More frequently, however, placing of a dental implant and restoring a tooth is generally done in several stage.
In stage one of the procedure, we will surgically place the implant body into the jawbone. This is accomplished by making an incision in the gum, preparing the bone to accept the implant and placement of a titanium implant into the bone. The gum is then replaced over the seated implant. The implant is then given time to integrate into the jawbone. Bone will grow around the implant and will provide a solid base for the tooth that is being restored. The length of time allowed for the bone to integrate is very variable. It depends upon the site of the implant, the jaw in which the implant was placed, the density of the existing bone and several other contributing factors. During this time, in many cases, a temporary tooth replacement can be worn over the implant site.
Once the bone has integrated around the implant, we will initiate the next phase of treatment by opening the gum and placing a temporary healing cap into the body of the implant. The patient will then return to the general dentist, where the healing cap will be replaced by a post which will act as the base of a crown. The crown will be created in a laboratory based on an impression made by the dentist. The crown will then be placed and the implant based replacement tooth will be completed. It will function and feel like a tooth and will remain in the mouth permanently. It does not need to be removed.
There are some implant systems (one-stage) that do not require this second step. These systems use an implant which already has the extension piece attached. We will advise you on which system is best for you.
Single Tooth Implant
If you are missing a single tooth, one implant and a crown can replace it. A dental implant replaces both the lost natural tooth and its root.
What are the advantages of a single-tooth implant over a bridge?
Before dental implants, the only way to restore a missing tooth permanently was to create a fixed bridge. A fixed bridge involved cutting down teeth on either side of the missing tooth and using them as anchors for the bridge. The bridge would then be cemented into the patient’s mouth.
Dental implants offer significant advantages over a fixed bridge:
- A dental implant can be used to permanently restore a missing tooth without having to drill the adjacent teeth
- A dental implant will preserve the underlying bone structure, while bone under a missing tooth will gradually resorb
- A dental implant, since it replaces a single tooth, is much easier to clean and maintain than a fixed bridge
Multiple Teeth Implants
For hundreds of years, the only way to replace multiple missing teeth has been with removable partial or full dentures. While dentures restore function and are aesthetically satisfactory, they are rarely very comfortable, they do not feel like real teeth and in many cases they are chronically loose. Today the use of multiple dental implants can be used to eliminate dentures completely or to modify them so that they are stable, comfortable functional and aesthetically pleasing.
There are several different treatment options to replace removable or full dentures:
The Permanently Cemented Fixed Bridge:
Like individual implants, multiple implants can be placed in the bone to replace all teeth that are missing. Depending on the number of implants and the number of teeth to be replaced, either individual crowns or fixed bridges may be made over the implants. These will be cemented and will remain fixed in a patient’s mouth, virtually replacing all of the teeth that the patient was missing.
The Full Arch Implant Prostheses:
For patients with full upper or lower dentures, who either cannot have enough implants placed to allow for fixed bridgework or who do not want to undergo the expense of full arch fixed implants, a new solution is available. The full arch implant prosthesis is a less expensive fixed alternative. Several implants will be placed and either porcelain and acrylic or zirconia teeth in the form of a denture will be fabricated in the lab and placed over the implants. These will be fixed and do not need to be removed. They will provide the patient with a stable fixed solution to replace their existing dentures.
The Implant Based Overdenture
The chronically loose set of dentures can now be replaced by supporting them with multiple dental implants. Dental implants can be placed and either a bar, ball retention or locater will be placed over the implant. The denture will then snap in over the bar, ball or locater locking the denture into place. This will give the patient a denture that is rigid, well functioning and functional. It will eliminate the use of denture adhesives and will allow the patient the ability to eat many of the foods they were unable to with regular dentures.