Dental Implants have revolutionized the replacement of missing teeth. When a tooth is extracted, the root of the tooth is removed from the jaw bone. If nothing is done, in as little as 3-6 months, significant bone loss can occur. Prior to implants, bridges and partials were our only option to replace missing teeth, but these options do nothing to combat bone loss. Enter the dental implant.
Now when teeth are extracted, a bone graft can be placed into the void where the root was. In about 3 months, this bone graft turns into solid bone, while preventing bone loss. At this time a dental implant, which is a sterile titanium insert can be placed into the bone to replace the missing root. Over the course of another 3 months, the implant undergoes a process called osseointegration. This means that bone grows onto the implant and essentially fuses with the implant. At this time the implant is able to bear force, so multiple dental restorative options are available at the patient at this time. The most important part of this process is that bone has been preserved and will not be lost over time. Dental implants preserve bone.
Now the dental implant is fully integrated and the bone is preserved. How can it be used:
- Single Teeth: Dental Implants can be used to replace single teeth. They are far superior to bridges because after a post (called and abutment) is screwed into the implant, a crown may be cemented onto the abutment. The result is a tooth that looks and acts like a real tooth. Patients can floss in between the implant crown and the adjacent teeth, which is not possible with a bridge. And don’t forget, all the bone preserved with an implant would have been lost with a bridge!
- Multiple Teeth: When multiple teeth are missing, they can be replaced with one implant per tooth, or 2 implants can be placed to replace 3 teeth. In that case a 3 tooth implant bridge can be placed on 2 implants. But didn’t you say bridges weren’t as good because teeth that aren’t replaced by implants will lost bone in that area? Yes. This is true. But preservation of bone is most important so that dental implants are an option. A whole upper or lower jaw of dental restorations can be placed on 4 or 5 implants, so not every tooth has to be replaced with an implant. This concept belies the important of thorough treatment planning.
- Denture Retention: If you know someone who has dentures, you have probably heard the stories of how they don’t fit well or the patients can eat like they used to. If this is the case 3 or 4 implants can be placed in an upper or lower jaw so that the dentures can snap in and out. The implants give excellent retention and allow a patient to eat and function like a patient with their own teeth.
- All on Four: If you don’t like the idea of denture that snaps in and out of the mouth and has to be taken out at night, a hybrid denture can be screwed into the implants and remain in the mouth indefinitely. This further increases the normality to which a patient without teeth can live.
- Full Arch Bridgework: If you still don’t like the idea of a hybrid denture in your mouth, traditional bridgework can be permanently cemented onto 5 implants in the upper or lower jaw.
As you can see, dental implants are highly functional, biologically superior and extremely versatile in helping a patient restore their mouth to a level that rivals natural teeth. The best part? All of this work can be performed at our office!