Dental implants are the closest you can get to replacing healthy, natural teeth. They allow you to live the way you want to – confidently eating, smiling, laughing, talking, kissing and enjoying all of your everyday activities without worrying about your teeth.
Think of dental implants as artificial tooth roots, similar in shape to the natural root, but more like an anchor. When dental implants are placed in your mouth, they bond with your natural bone. They become a sturdy base for supporting one or more artificial teeth, called crowns.
When performed by a trained and experienced dental implant dentist, dental implant surgery is one of the safest and most predictable procedures in dentistry.
Types of implants
There are two main types of implants:
Endosteal: These dental implants are placed in the jawbone. Typically made of titanium and shaped like small screws, they are the most commonly used type of implant.
Subperiosteal: These dental implants are placed under the gum but on, or above, the jawbone. This type of implant may be used in patients who do not have enough healthy natural jawbone and cannot, or do not want to, undergo a bone augmentation procedure to rebuild it.
If your jawbone is not able to support dental implants, several techniques can be used to rebuild bone, restore your natural jawline and provide a sturdy foundation for implant-supported teeth. These include:
Bone augmentation. This involves restoring or regenerating bone in your jaw when it is not able to support implants otherwise. Research shows that using bone additives and growth factors to fortify the bone generally achieves the best results.
Sinus lift. Also called sinus augmentation or sinus elevation, this involves adding bone below the sinus in cases where natural bone has deteriorated due to missing upper back teeth.
Ridge expansion. If your jaw isn’t wide enough to support dental implants, bone graft material can be added to a small ridge, or space, created along the top of your jaw.
3D Imaging and Treatment Planning
State-of-the-art, highly precise 3D digital imaging and implant surgical planning software have made implant procedures faster and highly predictable. Your dentist can use these tools to analyze the anatomy of your jaw and determine the best sites for implant placement before surgery. This saves time and money, and shortens recovery time.
Alternative Dental Implant Techniques
Depending on the health of your jawbone and your specific needs, your dental implant dentist may suggest some alternative treatment options in addition to the traditional multi-step dental implant procedure. Options may include:
Immediate Load Dental Implants. Also called same day implants or Teeth in a Day®, immediate load dental implants allow placement of a temporary tooth during the same appointment as your dental implant placement. This may be a good option if you have enough natural bone and an implant secure enough to support immediate placement and pressure on the new temporary tooth.
Mini dental implants (MDIs). Also called small or narrow diameter implants, these toothpick-sized implants are narrower than most commonly used dental implants. They are placed through less-invasive techniques and are used primarily to stabilize a lower denture.
All-on-4®. All-on-4 is an alternative to placing a top or bottom set of replacement teeth, called a full arch. Four dental implants are placed in available bone, avoiding the need for bone grafting. Special abutments are used so that a temporary set of replacement teeth can be placed the same day. You follow a modified diet while the gum tissues heal and the implants bond with your natural bone. After about six months, the permanent replacement teeth will be placed and you can resume a regular diet.