Maybe your two front teeth got knocked in with an elbow during a soccer game in high school or you have a problem with enamel loss, and your teeth have brown spots, or maybe your teeth are just unattractive to you. Whatever the case, there is something you can do about it. As technology has improved, so has dentistry. Dental implants could solve the problems of your haphazard smile.
Implants are a two stage process. A titanium artificial tooth root is surgically placed into the jaw bone by an oral surgeon, periodontist or general dentist with specialized training. The titanium implant is just below the level of gum tissue and a small hole is left in the gum over the top of the implant. A "healing cap" is screwed into the threads of the implant to prevent the gum tissue from growing over or into the implant.
A period of 6 weeks to several months is required for the titanium implant to "integrate" with the jaw bone. That means that the bone actually attaches to the implant to provide stability. It should be realized that this attachment is NOT the same as with a natural tooth. There is no periodontal ligament involved, which is the feature in bone to tooth attachment that allows for tooth movement through bone. Implants cannot be moved orthodontically nor be exposed to forces that cause natural teeth to move in response. For this reason, if implants are being considered with multiple missing teeth, your dentist must plan the number of implants and type of restoration placed on the implants carefully.
There can be several single tooth implants placed either adjacent to one another or in various locations around the mouth where teeth are missing. However, when the span of missing teeth is too great, it becomes more cost effective as well as biologically supportable to place two or three implants and link them together with a fixed bridge. There will be more teeth showing on the bridge than there are implants, just like with traditional bridges on natural teeth. These are also supported be abutments screwed into the implants as with single tooth implants.
When there are many missing teeth (or all of them) implants are usually used to support a removable denture. In these cases, several implants are linked together with a cast metal bar screwed into the implants on short posts. On the under side of the denture clips are inserted which clip onto the bar between the implants. A denture made this way is vastly more comfortable than a traditional denture because it largely rests on the bar instead of the tissue, thus eliminating many of the sore spots caused by dentures. Additionally, the denture is locked into place by the clips and is extremely stable, unlike dentures which tend to slip and shift or come completely out much more easily.
Although implants can be very expensive by comparison with other more traditional dental prosthetics , the potential benefits make them equally valuable. Most patients who have had traditional dental prosthetics replaced by implant supported prosthetics are so happy that they would never go back.