What are Dental Implants?

Garry Crystal

For many people, a missing tooth or teeth can be a confidence shattering experience. The permanent need to hide one's smile can cause embarrassment in social situations, and missing teeth can make one look older. Most teeth replacement treatment relies on some form or bridgework or dentures. Dental implants, however, are sometimes a more attractive solution because it leaves you with permanent, natural looking teeth.

Dental implants provide effective replacement for people who have lost a tooth due to gum disease.
Dental implants provide effective replacement for people who have lost a tooth due to gum disease.

Dental implants use a high tech surgical procedure to fuse a tooth or teeth to the jawbone. Ideal for people who are in good oral health, candidates for the treatment must have healthy gums and enough bone to support the implants. Dental implants can last a lifetime, and because the tooth is placed permanently into the bone, you can actually forget it is there.

Dental implants are typically not distinguishable from a person's natural teeth.
Dental implants are typically not distinguishable from a person's natural teeth.

There are two main types of dental implants. Endosteal implants are fixed into the bone with screws, cylinders or blades. Each of the implants can hold one or more teeth. Endosteal implants are used for patients who have bridgework or removable dentures.

An illustration of the parts of a dental implant.
An illustration of the parts of a dental implant.

Subperiosteal implants are placed on top of the jaw. The metal framework protrudes through the jaw to hold the tooth. Patients who have very minimal bone height and are unable to wear dentures are more likely to be a candidate for this type of implant.

Dental implants require a high-tech surgical procedure and can take several months worth of dentist visits to complete.
Dental implants require a high-tech surgical procedure and can take several months worth of dentist visits to complete.

There are many benefits to dental implants. For the right candidate, the success rate is extremely high. Since the implants are fitted straight into the jaw, there is no recession of the gums as with bridgework or dentures. Dental implants also do not require work to be done to adjacent teeth, unlike bridgework. With dental implants, no one will ever know you have a replacement tooth or teeth.

Endosteal implants may be used for patients who have removable dentures.
Endosteal implants may be used for patients who have removable dentures.

Dental implants can be use for one tooth, many teeth, or even all of your teeth. Generally, this number is determined, in part, by the amount of bone in the jaw. For example, the area in the upper back portion of the mouth generally has less bone structure and is therefore not usually an ideal location for implants. That the sinuses are near by doesn't help either.

Dental implants can brighten and improve a person's smile.
Dental implants can brighten and improve a person's smile.

A treatment called sinus augmentation may help correct this problem. The procedure raises the sinus floor and developing bone for the placement of the implants. Also, deformities in the bone can be corrected using ridge modification, in which the gum is lifted away and the bone exposed. The defect in the bone is then filled with a bone or bone substitute. This enhances the chance of the implant staying in place.

Dental implants can be performed on patients of any age. The entire procedure can take a few months, as the framework placed into the bone has to settle for a while before the tooth or teeth can be added. Temporary teeth will be fixed while this happens. The end result is permanent, natural teeth that look and feel as if you have had them your whole life. The only problem you have may after they are fitted is an inability to stop smiling.

Dental implants require the same regular brushing and flossing as natural teeth in order to prevent discoloration.
Dental implants require the same regular brushing and flossing as natural teeth in order to prevent discoloration.

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Discussion Comments

Ocelot60

If you need them and can afford them, dental implants are the way to go when it comes to restoring your smile. The most important thing to consider first though is the experience and expertise of the dentist you choose. The best dentist to do this type of work is one that has been trained in placing dental implants, has several years of experience, and will share extensive information about the procedure with his patients.

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