Dental implants are a long-lasting option for tooth loss caused by decay, periodontal disease, injury, a failed root canal, or root resorption. They can be used to replace a single missing or damaged tooth, several missing teeth, or restore an entire smile.
Regardless of the type, dental implants are the only tooth replacement solution that prevent bone loss and help stimulate new bone growth. No other tooth replacement offers the versatility, durability, longevity, and natural-looking function as dental implants.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Are Dental Implants?
- 2 The Three Types of Dental Implants
- 3 1. Single Tooth Dental Implants: Replacing One Tooth
- 4 2. Implant Supported Bridge: Replace Several Teeth
- 5 3. All-on-4 Dental Implants: Replace an Entire Upper Arch, Lower Arch, or Both
- 6 Are You a Good Candidate for Dental Implants?
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants consist of an implant post, abutment, and prosthetic.
The post is manufactured from biocompatible titanium or zirconia and resembles a small cylindrical screw. The post is surgically placed into the jawbone and after it fuses, assumes the role of the natural tooth root.
The abutment is a small connector piece, with one side screwed into the inside of the implant post and the other side attached to the dental prosthetic.
After dental implants integrate with your jawbone in a process called osseointegration, they provide incredibly strong and secure support for single crowns, bridges, and full mouth restorations. Dental implants have a success rate of 98% and can last a lifetime with proper care and professional maintenance.
A dental implant is stable—it doesn’t move in any way and is completely functional in terms of aesthetics and chewing ability. Dental implants blend in so seamlessly with natural teeth that nobody can tell the difference, including you!
Due to their transformative and incomparable benefits, dental implants are widely recognized as the number one tooth replacement option!
The Three Types of Dental Implants
Secured in the jawbone, dental implants can replace any number of missing or failing teeth, thereby preventing tooth loss from negatively impacting your oral health, systemic health, and quality of life!
Options include single dental implants, implant supported bridges, removable implant supported dentures, and All-on-4 fixed full mouth dental implants.
1. Single Tooth Dental Implants: Replacing One Tooth
Single tooth dental implants are permanent fixtures rooted in the jawbone to replace one severely decayed or missing tooth.
Single Tooth Dental Implant Process
Knowing what to expect is an important part of the dental implant process.
During your implant consultation, the dentist will discuss your oral health challenges, what you hope to achieve with dental implants, and explain the process. Digital X-rays and cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) are used to analyze your bone structure, nerve tissue, and sinus cavities and determine if you’re a good candidate for dental implants.
After local anesthetic and your choice of sedation takes effect, the dentist makes a small incision in your gum tissue. The implant post is placed in a predetermined site in your jawbone, using sophisticated digital guidance. Your gums are sutured in place and the healing and recovery phase starts.
While the healing process differs from person to person, it typically takes three to six months for gums to completely heal and the titanium post to fuse with your jawbone.
After healing is complete, the customized crown is attached to the implant abutment. The new tooth blends in with your other teeth and provides natural-looking function and aesthetics.
2. Implant Supported Bridge: Replace Several Teeth
What is a Dental Bridge?
A dental bridge is a tooth replacement option that relies on one or more false teeth connected to crowned adjacent natural teeth to support it. It literally ‘bridges the gaps’ created by one or more missing teeth to restore a person’s natural smile appearance.
Although a dental bridge is a cost-effective solution for restoring function and aesthetics, it comes with the following downsides:
- Requires modification of healthy teeth in order to place the crowns.
- Bone loss continues unchecked in the empty space under the false tooth.
- Gums can recede around a bridge, leaving a visible defect when the metal base or collar is exposed.
- The cement holding the bridge in place can wash out, allowing bacteria to accumulate and cause decay in the crowned teeth that anchor the bridge.
Implant Supported Bridge Process
An implant supported bridge requires several phases that typically take six to nine months, from start to finish. In general, an implant bridge can replace two to six missing teeth in a row. One of the biggest advantages of this process is that it eliminates the need to alter healthy teeth.
After you’re properly sedated, small incisions are made in your gum tissue. The dental implants are surgically implanted in your jaw, then your gums are sutured. As with single implants, the fusion process takes about three to six months.
During the second step, gum tissue is opened and abutment posts are affixed to the implants. Following this phase, your gums are given time to recover.
The dental bridge is attached to the abutment posts with a specialized dental compound. This secures the dental bridge and enables it to seamlessly blend in with the rest of your smile.
3. All-on-4 Dental Implants: Replace an Entire Upper Arch, Lower Arch, or Both
Several terms are used for implant retained or supported full arch solutions, which can be confusing. One option is a removable implant supported denture, also called an overdenture, snap-on denture, or snap-in denture.
All-on-4 dental full mouth dental implants are a popular specific type of fixed implant denture. Other variations include All-on-6, All-on-X, Teeth in a Day, and Teeth Xpress. Although these full mouth dental implant protocols are slightly different, all of them are fixed implant supported dentures that can only be removed by a dentist.
Implant Supported Dentures
Removable implant supported dentures are more like traditional dentures, but offer greater functionality and stability. They also eliminate the need for messy adhesives and prevent bone deterioration.
Overdentures may be a preferred option if you’re a traditional denture wearer looking for an upgrade, as long as you don’t mind removing dentures at the end of the day for cleaning.
The overdenture is attached to implants with a ball, bar, magnet or locator attachment system. Each of these systems has pros and cons that should be discussed with your dentist.
The locator system is specifically designed for full-arch or partial overdentures and is preferred by many dentists and patients. It pivots and self-aligns to assure proper insertion, removal, and retention during function. This enables patients to easily seat their overdenture without the need for accurate alignment.
All-on-4 Dental Implants
The All-on-4 treatment concept is a cost-efficient procedure that provides a temporary fixed full-arch prosthesis the same day as surgery. Full mouth dental implants restore 99% of biting and chewing power, so you can enjoy the foods you love without limitations.
All on 4 Implant Process
During the consultation and oral exam, the dentist will evaluate your teeth and gum health. Dental X-rays and a CBCT scan are used to determine the quality of your bone and pinpoint the location of nerves and sinuses. This thorough assessment will confirm whether you’re a good candidate for All-on-4 dental implants.
During the fully guided and sedated procedure, four or six dental implants are surgically placed in each arch in areas of your jawbone where bone mass is the most substantial. Tilting the posterior (back) dental implants at a 45-degree angle frequently prevents the need for bone grafting. After placing the implant posts, you’re fitted with a temporary fixed full mouth prosthesis.
After healing and integration are complete, you’ll receive your final custom-made zirconia prosthesis. It can take a short time to adapt to eating and speaking with your new All-on-4 full mouth dental implants.
Are You a Good Candidate for Dental Implants?
Age: To achieve a successful dental implant outcome, jawbone growth must be complete. While this usually happens during the middle to late adolescent years, changes can still occur. As such, most practices recommend waiting until a patient is a minimum of 20 years old.
Health: Moderate to advanced gum disease can weaken and dissolve tissue and bone. It’s paramount that gum disease is treated prior to placing dental implants. Gum and/or bone grafting procedures may be required even after the infection is resolved.
Smoking affects both oral and general health, thereby increasing vulnerability to infections and delayed wound healing. Most dentists recommend quitting several months prior to implant surgery to increase the chance of a successful outcome.
Diabetes can impede healing after surgery and increase the risk of postsurgical infection. A well-balanced diet, exercise, and proper disease control can increase the likelihood of a successful dental implant outcome.
Bone Structure: In order for dental implants to fully integrate with the jawbone, healthy bone density is required. If diagnostic imaging reveals the underlying bone is inadequate to support a dental implant, a bone grafting procedure is often a necessary first step.
Restore Your Smile with Dental Implants Dental implants are the only permanent tooth replacement for people with missing teeth. They function like natural teeth because the artificial titanium root is implanted and fuses with your jawbone. While dental implants are the number one tooth replacement option, it’s important to choose an implant dentist with years of training and surgical expertise.