What Are Dental Implants?

Dental implants replace missing teeth. The design of a dental implant is similar to the design of a single tooth. The natural tooth is one piece commonly described as having two main parts. One part is the crown that sits above the gums and the second part is a root that is secured firmly into the jaw bone. A dental implant treatment may involve several implant pieces. One part is a restoration that is custom fabricated to match the shape of a natural tooth crown. The second part is the implant that replaces the function of a tooth root.

Implants are made of Titanium or Titanium alloys. Unlike any other metals, our body normally accepts titanium as a biocompatible material without infection or resistance. The first phase of implant treatment involves creating an opening in the jaw bone in preparation of the implant. The Implant is then placed and integrated with the bone. Depending on the implant system, the gums may be sutured and a temporary crown may be placed out of occlusion.

The site immediately begins to heal and with Osseo integration (where bone molecules begin to bond and attach to the implant surface) the implant fuses with the surrounding bone. It usually takes between three to six months for the bone to securely bond to the implant surface. Once the implant is integrated with bone, next phase involves creation of an abutment which is the prosthetic connecting element for the crown and the implant. The Abutment is usually made of titanium, ceramic, or any combination of metals that can be screwed onto the implant imbedded in bone. Once an Abutment is fabricated, a Crown is either cemented or screw retained to fit the abutment and the implant.

Dental implants are titanium roots that are placed within the jawbone to resemble a tooth or group of teeth. Once the desired screw is inserted through the gums and into the jawbone an abutment is placed on top of the titanium screw to hold a crown in place. A crown is then cemented or screw-retained to the implant. Implants can be used to support any type of dental prosthesis, including crowns, denture and bridges. There is approximately a 95% success rate for implants depending on the topography and abundance of bone available in the area of the missing teeth. Usually an implant takes between 12 weeks to 24 weeks to integrate with the bone. Once integration is confirmed, a crown is attached.

Alternatives to Dental Implants include:

  • Partial dentures however bone loss is a consequence due to absence of the natural tooth root. Biting forces will eventually cause tooth to chip and move that could cause more bone loss.
  • Fixed Ceramic Bridge: which shaving adjacent tooth structure to secure, difficult to clean, lack of tooth root will cause recession of gum connective tissue
  • Resin Bonded Bridge: which also are known to cause bone loss, plaque buildup, tooth decay.

Benefits of Implant Placement:

  • Stand Alone restoration and more conservative
  • Stability
  • Success Rate: Dental implants can help stop periodontal diseases from forming. This is because gaps formed by missing teeth can cause periodontal disease and infections that may affect a person’s ability to eat or speak. It is very important to fill in any gaps to prevent the adjacent and opposing set of teeth from shifting positions or causing further damage to the mouth.
  • No need to sacrifice adjacent teeth

Limitations of Dental Implants:

  1. Architectures of bone which may require surgical planning and identifying vital structures such as nerves or sinuses for predictable outcomes. Most times a CT scan (3D computerized Topography) imaging is used to give clinicians detailed measurements of bone architecture present to have best outcomes.
  2. Healing times and rehabilitation. Average integration of implant can take from 6 weeks to 4 months. If inadequate bone morphology is present, procedures such as Sinus Lifts, and bone grafting may be required to augment the available bone the implant can retain into.
  3. Cost. Though a debatable topic, cost for some implant surgeries can rise significantly with lack of proper bone topography or necessity of Bone augmentations and Sinus Lifts.