What Are Dental Implants
One of the most exciting developments in restorative dentistry of the 20th century was the invention of the dental implant. For decades they have consistently proved themselves to be the best option for replacing a missing tooth.
So what are dental implants? Why are they so good? And can everyone benefit from them?
But firstly — why bother replacing a tooth in the first place?
Negative Effects of Missing Teeth
So a tooth has fallen out due to injury, or needed to be removed due to infection.
Why does it need to be replaced?
- When a tooth is missing on one side of the jaw, people tend to over-use the opposite side. This can put extra strain on those teeth, and cause chips or breaks.
- Teeth help keep each other in place. When one is missing, teeth on either side can start to tip into the gap left between them.
- Tooth roots provide volume in the jaw. After extraction, the jaw will start to collapse into the space left by the missing tooth roots. This results in the jaw losing shape, leading to further complications.
There are already ways of replacing a missing tooth, such as with a dental bridge or a partial denture. What’s special about dental implants?
They’re the closest thing you can get to having a natural tooth in the mouth.
How Dental Implants Simulate Real Teeth
Bridges and dentures are good for replacing the crown of the tooth (the part we bite and chew on).
But only a dental implant replaces a tooth down to the root.
The core component of a dental implant is a small titanium screw that acts as an artificial tooth root. This is the actual “implant” referred to in “Dental implant”. This screw is allowed to integrate with the bone, and then a restoration is placed on top.
Replacing a tooth root provides
- Better bone volume. Filling the space left by the root helps to maintain bone volume and keep the jaw in shape.
- Better support for the restoration. Bridges and dentures use other teeth to keep them in place. With a dental implant, the restoration is self-supported on its own “root”, like a real tooth would be.
Dental implants are also beneficial as they lessen, or remove, the need to interfere with adjacent healthy teeth. A single tooth replaced by a single implant does not require shaving down healthy tooth crowns like a bridge does, for example.
Dental implants can replace more than one tooth
A single dental implant can replace a single tooth if finished with a dental crown.
However, you can also use one or multiple implants to support many teeth.
Implants can be used to support a bridge. This is when a row of adjacent teeth are missing and need to be replaced simultaneously. A restoration that replaces these missing crowns can be mounted on just one or two implants.
An entire row or “arch” of teeth can be supported on just 4-6 implants. This is a process known as “all-on-4” (or “all-on-six”) and involves mounting a full denture onto the implants. Implant-supported dentures are significantly more stable, do less damage to the gums, and provide greater functionality than traditional dentures.
How long do dental implants last?
Multiple long-term studies show that, with proper care, it’s possible for dental implants to last decades. They are incredibly reliable and predictable.
While the general advice is they can be expected to last 10-20 years or so, many patients who have had implants have kept them the rest of their lives.
Who can get dental implants?
Anyone who is a candidate for oral surgery and has sufficient bone volume can get dental implants.
Smoking, diabetes, certain cardiovascular conditions, or severe periodontitis may exclude you from being a candidate for implants. If your teeth have been missing for a long time and too much bone volume has been lost, you may also not be able.
Your dentist will be able to properly assess you and let you know whether dental implants are available to treat your missing teeth.