What is a Dental Implant?
Dental implants are small anchors made of a biocompatible metal called titanium that are placed in the jawbone. Dental implants are the replacement of tooth roots in the mouth. Once placed, the anchors begin to fuse with the bone over the course of a few months. After the fusing process, known as osseointegration, abutment posts are inserted into the anchors to allow for the permanent attachment of the replacement teeth.
Implant Supported Dentures
For patients who are missing many or all of their teeth, implant supported dentures may be an alternative to traditional dentures. This solution requires the placement of two or more implants. In order to replace a full arch denture, a minimum of four implants is generally recommended. Eligibility for this solution is dependent upon a number of factors, with jaw bone density being one of the most significant determining factors.
Traditional dentures rely on an acrylic base that sits directly on the gums, held in place by a paste or adhesive. Using implants as supports for dentures allows for a smaller and more comfortable base and less shifting of the prosthesis during use.
Implants can support both full and partial dentures as well as both fixed and removable dentures. If a removable denture is selected, the denture will “snap” on to the implant rather than requiring the use of denture paste or adhesives. Removable dentures can be taken out for cleaning at night.
Why should I consider implant-supported dentures over traditional dentures?
This technique offers many advantages over traditional dentures.
Easy to care for, this solution can simulate the look and feel of natural teeth and stay fixed in place with the implants acting as anchors. Patients will not experience the typical rocking and movement or gum irritation associated with dentures.
Dental implant placement can also help alleviate the sunken look that can occur with bone loss in the jaw by stimulating bone growth in the area around the implant. This process can also help prevent future bone loss.
Implant Supported Bridges
An implant supported bridge is a restorative solution for spaces where three or more adjacent teeth are missing. This restoration typically requires two implants to support the porcelain bridge. The bridge provides a functional and aesthetic replacement for a patient’s natural teeth.
What are the advantages of an implant supported bridge?
Because of the natural look and feel of the porcelain and the functional stability provided by the implants, implant supported bridges are an effective solution to replace multiple missing teeth.
A traditional bridge uses teeth on either side of the gap where teeth are missing for support. An implant supported bridge uses two or more dental implants rather than the adjacent teeth. When a bridge uses natural teeth for attachment, the natural teeth must be prepped for crowns and are then subject to increased stress which may be damaging – particularly if the existing tooth, roots, or surrounding bone structure are already compromised. A dental implant supported bridge replaced your missing teeth and avoids putting any additional stress on your natural teeth.
Full Arch with Only Four Implants
This procedure is a unique implant solution that allows patients with a completely edentulous (toothless) upper or lower arch to replace all of the teeth in that arch using only four implants as anchors.
Mini Dental Implants (MDIs)
There are times when a full size implant is not a viable option, and in many cases an MDI may be a great solution. Small spaces or inadequate bone mass in the jaw may prevent the use of traditional implants. Mini Dental Implants are similar to regular implants but, as the name suggests, are significantly smaller in diameter. The placement of MDIs is minimally invasive, often requiring only local anesthetic and no sutures. For this reason, MDIs can often be placed with the final replacement tooth in one day.
How are mini dental implants different from standard dental implants?
In traditional implants, an abutment is attached to the titanium implant screw, and the restoration is then placed on the abutment as shown here.
MDIs are approximately half the diameter of a traditional implant and use a titanium post, rather than a screw. Instead of an abutment piece that supports the final restoration, MDIs use a ball and socket attachment system. The ball on the end of the titanium post (shown above) provides the attachment point for the o-ring in the replacement tooth.
Similarities between MDIs and full size dental implants:
- The implant is inserted into the jawbone.
- The implants, once inserted into the jawbone, are fixed in place.
- The implant serves to replace the tooth root and anchor replacement teeth.
- The placement of the implant can prompt bone regeneration around the placement site.
- The implant can be used to support one or more teeth for crowns or bridges and can also help provide support for removable lower arch dentures.
MDIs may be preferable to full size dental implants in the following situations:
- Bone mass in the jaw is insufficient to support a full size implant screw.
- There is a small space or gap into which to insert the fabricated tooth (such as an incisor as opposed to a molar).
- Children or young adults have congenitally missing teeth.
- Minimally invasive techniques are required due to health or other reasons.