Dental implants are changing the way people live. They are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth which look, feel, and function like natural teeth. A person who has lost teeth can regain the ability to eat their favorite foods with comfort and confidence. Patients can smile with confidence, safe in the knowledge that their teeth appear natural and that their natural facial contours have been preserved.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are cylindrical tooth root analogs made from an alloy of primarily titanium. They are used for supporting abutments of various kinds in the restoration of teeth. The titanium cylinder is surgically placed in the jawbone and over a period of about six weeks undergoes a process called osseointegration whereby it very nearly fuses to the bone. After the implant fixture osseointegrates it is ready to be used in the restoration and replacement of teeth.
Implants are used in several unique ways in order to replace missing teeth:
- Individual crowns An implant can replace a single tooth by way of support for an abutment crown which is the visible component of a tooth in the mouth.
- Bridges Two or more implants can be used to support abutments and a bridge where two or more adjacent teeth are missing.
- Full arch fixed tooth replacement Hybrid dentures are strong restorations made with denture teeth, acrylic and a metal substructure which is secured by screws and supported by abutments fastened to implant fixtures. These “fixed detachable” hybrid dentures are unable to be removed except by your dentist.
- Full arch removable tooth replacement Implants can be used to help hold removable dentures in the mouth by way of attachments such as Locator or Conus abutments. These implant retained overdentures are much more stable than their non-implant supported counterparts.
In order to assess whether you are a good candidate for dental implants your prosthodontist will need to obtain a scan of your bone in the area of interest called a cone beam CT scan or tomographic survey. Once it has been determined that there is enough bone and your medical records have been reviewed to determine that there are no condraindications to surgical treatment, the planning process for dental implants can begin. A treatment plan is formulated based on your specific needs and the implant fixture sizes and locations are predetermined by use of dental models, your CBCT scan, implant planning software and occasionally a wax-up or radiographic guide. Planning and placement of dental implants is only one part of successful dental treatment but it is an important first step in your personalized dental care.
Once dental implants are placed and the teeth have been restored, you will need to be sure to follow a proper maintenance protocol to ensure the best long term outcome. Brushing and flossing at home as well as periodic prophylaxis visits are necessary to keep an eye on your implant restoration and detect problems early. The most common complication with dental implants is abutment screw loosening which is an easy fix. Bone loss around implant fixtures is another problem which occurs and can be related to inadequate hygiene and maintenance.