Dental implants have become increasingly popular as a dental treatment option. An implant is a conservative means to replace a missing tooth compared to a crown and bridge, as the tooth structure on either side of the missing tooth is not disturbed by the implant placement. A typical bridge is a custom device anchored to neighboring teeth that replaces one or more missing teeth. When a lost tooth is replaced with bridgework, the teeth on either side of the missing tooth are prepared as crowns to serve as abutments to hold the prosthetic (replacement) tooth in place; therefore, an implant is not only more conservative treatment but may be less expensive than a traditional crown and bridge, as the restoration will not include the adjacent teeth in the treatment.
A dental implant can be described as a new “root” to a tooth, anchoring the tooth through the gum tissue to the jawbone. A small titanium implant is surgically placed under the gum and into the bone; the implant then fuses to the bone and becomes the new and improved site to restore the missing tooth with an abutment and crown. Once an implant has been placed in the jaw, the bone around the implant needs to heal for six weeks to six months. Once the site has healed, Doc will place a support post called a healing abutment on the implant, and eventually, a crown will be placed on the abutment, which looks and feels like a natural tooth.
One or more implants can be placed at one time, depending on the patient’s specific needs. Implants can also be used as an effective means to secure dentures and prevent further bone loss suffered by many patients with dentures. There are two types of implants; the most commonly used is endosteal, or in the bone, which includes screws, cylinders or blades surgically placed into the jawbone and is generally used as an alternative for patients with bridges or dentures. The other type is subperiosteal or on the bone. This type is also known as a “mini-implant,” which is placed on top of the jaw with the metal framework posts protruding through the gum to hold the prosthesis and is used for patients who are unable to wear typical dentures and who have minimal bone height. Candidates for dental implants are in good general and oral health. Adequate bone in the jaw is required to support the implant, and the best candidates have healthy gum tissues that are free of periodontal disease.