Dental Implant Overview

Dental Implant Overview

Dental implant with crown
Dental implant and crown replacing a single missing tooth

A dental implant is a small but strong fixture that replaces the root of a tooth.  After it is inserted into the jaw bone the implant acts as support for an artificial tooth, bridge, or a denture. Implants are fabricated out of either titanium or zirconium. Titanium fixtures are made out of an alloy that is surface coated with hydroxyapetite or bone like material. Zirconium on the other hand are made out of a very strong ceramic material that is compatible with living tissue. The size and length of an implant which will be placed vary upon the placement location and the amount of bone that is present in the recipient site. Implants are placed within the jawbone with great precision to allow for full integration and ideal restoration. Unlike natural teeth, which are held in place by periodontal ligament fibers,  implants have a  highly biocompatible surface that enables bone to completely fill in around the implant and provide long-term stability. When fully integrated with surrounding bone, the implants become part of the jaw bone and are able to withstand standard biting forces. The titanium or ceramic implant provides support for the final restoration, which can be a dental crown, bridge or denture. After the implant is restored it is not possible to distinguish between an implant supported and tooth supported restoration. Thanks to advances made in dental ceramic restorations, implant crowns look like natural teeth.  Even though both metal and ceramic systems are popular, in the future I see dentists transitioning to zirconia implants because there is less chance for post-operative complications. One of the complications observed with titanium alloy, although not very common,  is a hypersensitivity or allergic reaction. At this point there are no known allergies to zirconia.

Why Choose Dental Implants

There are various options for replacing a missing tooth or teeth. Dental implants provide an excellent choice to conventional treatment of a dental bridge or removable prosthesis, such as a partial or a full denture. For most people dental implants are the best alternative. Dental implant, which is anchored in bone acts as a tooth root. This means that adjacent teeth are not modified to fill-in the gap and you get an esthetically pleasing result. Dental implant will also decrease the stress exerted on adjacent teeth because it absorbs part of the load present during normal chewing. Ultimately it means a more stable bite at a later age and less chance of developing TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) problems. Just like with everything else in life the best option is usually the most expensive. Even though the initial cost of an implant is higher the savings over a lifetime can be substantial. Visit the Financing Dental Implants section to learn more.

Replacing a Single Missing Tooth:

In the past, replacing a missing tooth meant either wearing a removable prosthesis that would fill in the gap of the missing teeth or shaving down the adjacent teeth and placing a fixed bridge.

Today dental implants allow us to fill in the space without modifying any other tooth. Placement of a dental implant within the jawbone and restoring it with a beautiful crown provides the patient with a very esthetic and long lasting solution.

Replacing Multiple Teeth

Dental implants can be used to replace a single tooth, several and even all the missing teeth. Depending on the condition of the existing teeth and overall bone support, the missing teeth can be replaced with either a removable dental implant supported denture or a fixed bridge anchored on dental implants. Implants provide needed stability for a complete denture, which enables the patient to look great and function with confidence.

Comparison Between Dental Bridge and Dental Implant

The chart below compares common characteristics of a dental bridge and dental implants.

Dental implants can fill in the gap between natural teeth without the need for modifying the teeth. This eliminates the potential for any post-operative complications such as tooth sensitivity, and potentially the need for root canal treatment. Because a dental implant with a crown act as a separate tooth, oral hygiene technique is the same as for natural teeth.

Fixed Dental Bridge Dental Implant
Adjacent teeth remain intact 0 +
Bone integrity preserved 0 +
Long term results 0 +
Esthetic results + +
Restores chewing function + +
Simple oral hygiene techniques 0 +