What are dental implants? How do dental implants work?

Dental implants are posts (titanium screws) that are surgically placed in the jawbone. Through a process called osseointegration, they merge with the bone to provide a stable base for an abutment or post which will support a crown or bridge.

Implants are said to feel and function almost as if they were natural teeth, providing a great, permanent replacement option.

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Dental implant parts

A tooth restoration in the form of an implant is composed of three main parts. Those are the fixture, the abutment, and the artificial tooth.

Fixture

Also called an implant body or post, it goes into the hole in the gum where the tooth is missing. The implant post resembles a screw and it is the part that fuses to the bone. Mounting this is a short surgical procedure.

After the fixture is in place, a healing cap is put in to make sure gums grow around properly. The surgeon may wait 6-8 weeks before placing a healing abutment.

Abutment

About two weeks later, when the post and bone have fused, the gum will be opened up again to attach the abutment. It looks like a short, metal version of a tooth and it is screwed or cemented in place.

The dental implant screw acts as a connector between the post and crown or bridge.

Crown or bridge

A crown is used for single-tooth implants. It is the only part that is visible in the mouth once the restoration is complete. Gums grow around it, giving the tooth a natural appearance. It can be matched to the color and size of surrounding dentition for a fully customized look.

When having multiple teeth replaced, you will be fitted with an implant-supported bridge or denture.

What are dental implants made of?

The most common materials are titanium and zirconia. Your dentist will help decide which is right for you before scheduling your dental implant procedure.

Titanium

Titanium dental implants have been used for decades. It is a biocompatible material, which makes it perfect for osseointegration. Titanium is durable, lightweight, and resists corrosion.

Implants made of titanium have a success rate of roughly 93
%. Patients who have allergies should take the MELISA test to make sure the implant won’t cause any issues, although this rarely happens.

Zirconia

Ceramic dental implants require a higher level of expertise from the dental practitioner to place correctly. This is because they are less durable and come in one piece. The abutment and crown are made of zirconia, while the actual implant body is still titanium.

Zirconia implants are often marketed as more aesthetic. Such implants are tooth-colored, which makes them appear even more natural. Titanium rods can sometimes be slightly visible at the implant-crown border.

Types of dental implants

Dental implants can be divided into three categories, depending on how many teeth they replace. You can restore a single tooth, multiple neighboring teeth, or have a full arch of artificial dentition.

Single-tooth implant

If you are just missing one tooth, your implant will support one crown. It will still replace the root, which means bone will be stimulated. This is often recommended for front tooth replacement.

A single implant is a great alternative to a bridge, as it does not damage adjacent dentition to mount the bridge. It stands on its own, providing the patient with full functionality and impressive aesthetics.

Multiple dental implants

An implant-supported bridge is a great option for those who are missing several neighboring teeth. This way no adjacent dentition needs to be shaved down in order to mount the restoration.

For multiple missing teeth you might need at least two rods. The final decision will be made by the dentist upon reviewing the situation in your mouth.

Full-mouth dental implants

All the teeth can be replaced to give the patient a completely restored smile. Full-mouth dental implants can be either permanent or removable. The first is usually mounted on 4 implants. The second option can sometimes be done with just 2.

If any teeth are remaining, they might be extracted. The artificial dentition is customized to fit the face and mouth, giving a natural look.

Pros and cons of dental implants

Pros

  • Life-long solution
  • Most durable tooth replacement option
  • No issues with smiling, eating, or talking
  • Stimulate the bone and prevent reabsorption
  • High success rate
  • Look just like natural teeth

Cons

  • Expensive
  • The process can be long
  • Additional procedures might be necessary
  • Some patients are allergic to titanium

Dental implants data and facts

FAQ

Are dental implants safe?

Dental implants have an incredibly high success rate, about 93%. The method has only gotten better since 50 years ago when it was first conducted. There is little to no risk if the surgery is performed by an experienced specialist. Complications are rare, and mostly due to lack of patient compliance.

How long do dental implants last?

If cared for properly, implants can be a lifelong solution and they are considered a fully permanent restoration. The crown might have to be replaced after about 15 years, but there is almost never a need to change the post. The first successful implant stayed in the patient’s body for over 30 years. He was able to take it to his grave.