Single Tooth Replacement
When a single tooth is missing, the two most common treatment options are the traditional tooth supported bridge and an implant supported crown. When a traditional bridge is used to replace a missing tooth, the adjacent teeth are cut down into peg shapes in order to fit the cemented bridge in place.
A dental implant provides several advantages over other tooth replacement options. In addition to looking and functioning like a natural tooth, a dental implant replaces a single tooth without sacrificing the health of neighboring teeth. The other common treatment for the loss of a single tooth, a tooth-supported fixed bridge, requires that adjacent teeth be ground down to support the cemented bridge.
Because a dental implant will replace your tooth root, the bone is better preserved. With a bridge, some of the bone that previously surrounded the tooth begins to resorb (deteriorate). Dental implants integrate with your jawbone, helping to keep the bone healthy and intact.
In the long term, a single implant can be more esthetic and easier to keep clean than a bridge. Gums can recede around a bridge, leaving a visible defect when the metal base or collar of the bridge becomes exposed. Resorbed bone beneath the bridge can lead to an unattractive smile. And, the cement holding the bridge in place can wash out, allowing bacteria to decay the teeth that anchor the bridge.
A single missing tooth can be replaced with a bridge or an implant and crown.
Tooth replacement with a bridge requires cutting down the adjacent natural teeth to place crowns and a false tooth to serve as space maintainer.
Tooth replacement with a dental implant and crown replicates the anatomy of a natural tooth and does not compromise the adjacent teeth.
There are many advantages to replacing a single missing tooth with an implant-supported crown:
- It does not decay
- It looks, feels and functions like a natural tooth
- It is much more esthetic long term
- There is no need to grind down the adjacent natural teeth
- The bone is preserved, preventing a visible bony defect
- It is more hygienic (easier to clean) than a tooth-supported bridge
Single tooth implants can be used in people who are missing one or more teeth. An implant is surgically placed in an opening that is made by your dentist in the jawbone. After the implant integrates (attaches) to your bone, it acts as a new root for the crown that will be replacing your missing tooth. A crown (cap), which is made to look like a natural tooth, is attached to the implant and fills the space left in the mouth by the missing tooth.
Replacing Multiple Teeth
When more than one tooth is missing, there are three common treatment options: the traditional tooth supported bridge, a removable partial denture and an implant supported bridge. In this situation, the benefits of implant-supported teeth are even more obvious.
A removable prosthesis, such as a partial denture, actually speeds the bone resorption (deterioration) process that occurs naturally when teeth are lost or removed. In addition, the clasps that hold the partial denture in place put significant pressure on the natural teeth they hook onto, loosening them and in many cases, eventually leading to the loss of those teeth. Most patients with partial dentures state that they are uncomfortable and that they rarely wear them.
The advantages of replacing multiple missing teeth with implant-supported bridges include the following:
- Adjacent natural teeth are not compromised (ground down)
- They look feel and function like natural teeth
- They are much more comfortable and stable than partial dentures
- Natural biting and chewing capacity is restored
- They virtually stop the bone resorption (deterioration) process
- The integrity of the facial structures is maintained
The missing teeth may be replaced with multiple single-tooth implant restorations (described above: replacing single teeth), or with implant fixed partial dentures (implant bridges). Implant bridges replace the support lost as a result of missing teeth, avoid the need to drill the adjacent teeth and do not require an implant for every missing tooth. The space, gum tissue and underlying bone must be appropriate to place the dental implants.
Implants are placed in strategic positions to replace the missing teeth. When the implants are stable and ready for loading, abutments can be attached to the implants that will connect the final bridge (prosthesis) to the implants. An impression is made recording the contours of the abutments or the position of the implant tops. The implant bridge is then fabricated and retained in place using cement or screws.
Full Mouth Dental Implants
If you are missing all of your teeth, an implant-supported full bridge or full denture can replace them. Dental implants will replace both your lost natural teeth and some of the roots.
Denture wearers often lack confidence that their denture will firmly stay in place in their mouth without becoming loose or floating. For patients who are having this difficulty, denture stabilization implants will help you eat and speak more confidently. This is especially helpful for the lower denture. Also, because the denture no longer slides on the gums, denture implants help retain the jaw bone.
Dental implants provide several advantages over other teeth replacement options. In addition to looking and functioning like natural teeth, implant-supported full bridges or dentures are designed to be long lasting. Implant-supported full bridges and dentures also are more comfortable and stable than conventional dentures, allowing you to retain a more natural biting and chewing capacity.
In addition, because implant-supported full bridges and dentures will replace some of your tooth roots, your bone is better preserved. With conventional dentures, the bone that previously surrounded the tooth roots begins to resorb (deteriorate). Dental implants integrate with your jawbone, helping to keep the bone healthy and intact.
In the long term, implants can be more esthetic and easier to maintain than conventional dentures. The loss of bone that accompanies conventional dentures leads to recession of the jawbone and a collapsed, unattractive smile. Conventional dentures make it difficult to eat certain foods.
First, implants, which looks like screws or cylinders, are placed into your jaw. Then, over the next two to six months, the implants and the bone are allowed to bond together to form anchors for your artificial teeth. During this time, a temporary teeth replacement option can be worn over the implant sites.
Often, a second step of the procedure is necessary to uncover the implants and attach extensions. These temporary healing caps, along with various connecting devices that allow multiple crowns to attach to the implants, complete the foundation on which your new teeth will be placed. Your gums will be allowed to heal for a couple of weeks following this procedure.
Depending upon the number of implants placed, the connecting device that will hold your new teeth can be tightened down on the implant, or it may be a clipped to a bar or a round ball anchor to which a denture snaps on and off.
Finally, full bridges or full dentures will be created for you and attached to small metal posts, called abutments, or the connecting device. After a short time, you will experience restored confidence in your smile and your ability to chew and speak.
Every case is different, and some of these steps can be combined when conditions permit. Your oral surgeon will work with you to determine the best treatment plan.