If gum disease, bone loss, tooth decay, fractures, or infection has led to missing teeth, one way to replace them is with a dental implant. Unlike a bridge or denture which both sit on top of the jaw, an implant is placed directly into the jaw bone with the intention of remaining there forever. Once a dental implant is placed, it feels and looks like a natural tooth.
While dental implants are a surgical approach to replace missing teeth, they require the least amount of maintenance once they are placed, and typically offer greater longevity than bridges or dentures.
Another reason you may require a dental implant is if your dentist has recommended a dental bridge and one or both of the abutment teeth (i.e., the teeth on either side of the missing teeth being replaced) are not strong enough to support the bridge.
If a dental implant is being considered, we will first examine your mouth and medical history and then take x-rays of your head, jaw and teeth to ensure that you are a good candidate for this treatment option. Some reasons why you might not be a candidate for a dental implant are:
(a) you have non-repairable bone loss in your jaw which will prevent the implant from remaining in place
(b) you have a pre-existing medical condition that prevents you from receiving this treatment option or,
(c) the procedure is cost-prohibitive as implants are the most expensive method of replacing missing teeth.
The dental implant procedure
A dental implant is made up of three parts, all working together to ensure that the final result is a secure tooth and will neither move around in your mouth, impact other teeth nor look unsightly or unnatural.
Before a dental implant is installed, your dentist will make sure no portion of the tooth that used to be present remains. An x-ray will be taken to confirm this, but if some portion of the tooth is present, your dentist will have to remove it during a pre-implant procedure. The x-ray will also determine whether the location of the missing is able to receive a dental implant.
A dental implant’s three parts are:
Typically, this is made from titanium, and resembles a screw. It is inserted through the gum tissue and into the jawbone. Over several months the root/fixture will bond with the bone securing it in place in a process called “osseointegration.” A bit of the root/fixture remains exposed above the gum line to connect to the rest of the implant.
The implant abutment
Once the root/fixture has healed, it is topped with an implant abutment, which connects the root/fixture to the implant crown. Think of the abutment as an anchor for the tooth.
The implant crown
The implant crown is the artificial tooth, custom-designed in the dental laboratory to function with your existing teeth. It is cemented or screwed onto the abutment to keep it in place.
The advantage of dental implants
Not impacting the adjacent teeth and longevity are the two most significant advantages dental implants have over other forms of tooth replacement like bridges and dentures. They are also easier to clean which leads to better oral hygiene, a healthier smile over time and a better treatment outcome.