When teeth are lost due to trauma or disease, a dental implant can be placed to replace the lost teeth. Dental implants are the best option for replacing teeth for the long term dental health of patients. An endosteal dental implant consists of a titanium screw that is surgically drilled into the upper or lower jaw bones. In some cases, it can be inserted the same day that the original tooth is removed. Over time the bone of the jaw grows into the screw, creating a strong structure, much like the root of a natural tooth. When the implant has fully healed into the jaw, the crown of the tooth will be placed which is typically a porcelain overlay. The implant will remain in the jaw for life and the crown will not need to be removed unless there is damage to it, unlike dentures. Without a tooth or implant in place, the patient will experience bone loss over time and may need surgery in the future to correct the issue. The jaw bone will not erode and deteriorate when a dental implant is in place.
Some patients already have a deteriorated jaw bone or have a naturally shallow jawbone. Although there are procedures that can be used to rebuild the jawbone, some patients do not wish to undergo this addition to their dental surgery or cannot tolerate bone grafting. Subperiosteal implants can be placed under the gums but above the jawbone. These types of implants give more stability to the teeth than traditional bridges or dentures.
Dental implants can replace one tooth, with one screw mimicking the root of each tooth being replaced. They can also anchor a permanent set of dentures or a permanent bridge. Instead of using a screw for each tooth that needs to be replaced, a number of implants will be placed to hold the dentures in place. The placement of these screws depends on a number of factors, like where in the jaw has the strongest and most bone. Instead of placing a single crown over the implants when they heal, a full set of dentures or a bridge will be permanently placed on the implants. For patients who have previously had removable dentures or bridges in place, this will be a completely new experience. The implants and new teeth will look natural and most patients describe the outcome as positively life-changing.
Some patients opt to have implants placed with a removable denture. The teeth can be removed for repair or cleaning, but are anchored in the jaw by the implants. This option is less expensive than a fully fixed, permanent denture in place. It is not the best option for most patients, but it is a much better option than a traditional removable denture.
When injury or decay leads to the loss of teeth, dental implants are the best option for a patient’s long-term dental health. With so many options available, the dentist and patient can work together to come up with the best tooth replacement strategy available.