Dental Implants

If you lose one or more teeth due to periodontal disease, or another cause, there is hope. Dental implants are changing the way people live! They are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel, and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat virtually anything and can smile with confidence, knowing that teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved. Patients with dental implants can smile with confidence.

What are Dental Implants?

Dental implants are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel, and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat virtually anything and can smile with confidence, knowing that teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved. The implants themselves are tiny titanium posts that are surgically placed into the jawbone where teeth are missing. These metal anchors act as tooth root substitutes.

The bone bonds with the titanium, creating a strong foundation for artificial teeth. Small posts that protrude through the gums are then attached to the implant. These posts provide stable anchors for artificial replacement teeth. Dental Implants also help preserve facial structure, preventing the bone deterioration that occurs when teeth are missing.

Dental Implants vs. Bridges and Dentures

A dental implant is an excellent way of replacing a single tooth without the disadvantages of a fixed bridge or removable dentures. It is the ideal treatment for a missing tooth because it does not affect your adjacent teeth. That means no grinding down or crowning of your natural teeth as with bridges, and no metal clasps around your healthy teeth or plastic on the roof of your mouth as with removable partial dentures. And because implants are fixed in place, there is no worry about slipping or clicking as with dentures.

Avoiding Bone Loss

Your teeth stimulate the surrounding bone with each bite. This preserves the integrity of the bone. When a tooth is lost, the bone is not stimulated and begins to shrink away. A dental implant keeps this bone intact and can prevent both bone loss and gum tissue shrinkage, thus protecting surrounding healthy teeth. Bridges and dentures do not provide this type of support and protection. In addition, because a dental implant replaces the root structure, the jawbone is better preserved.

Long-Term Solution

In terms of hygiene, a single tooth dental implant is also much easier to clean as compared to a bridge. The teeth that support a bridge will often get cavities and can be at risk of failing in just a few years. Unlike a bridge, an implant cannot be affected by cavities, and offers a much longer-term solution, often lasting a lifetime.

Single Tooth

There is no better, long-lasting option to restoring a missing tooth than a dental implant fitted with a crown.

Traditional replacement of a single tooth using a dental implant is often completed over multiple visits:

  • Consultation and planning, including initial exam, imaging of your teeth, questions about your dental and medical history, and discussion of your treatment options.
  • Placement of the dental implant, a substitute for the missing natural tooth root, either with or without a built-in abutment (a connector placed on, or built into, the top of the implant) that will attach to the replacement tooth. A temporary tooth can be placed while the dental implant integrates with your natural bone to form a strong foundation for your replacement tooth. Most people return to work the next day.
  • Placement of the abutment, if one wasn’t placed during the prior visit. (It is optional to have a temporary tooth placed the same visit as surgery in most cases for an additional fee.
    • Placement of a custom-made crown, or replacement tooth.

Multiple Teeth

Replacing multiple teeth using dental implants with individual crowns or with an implant-supported fixed bridge gives your teeth a level of fit, feel and functionality that is not possible with other treatment options. The process is often completed over multiple visits:

  • Consultation and planning, including initial exam, imaging of your teeth, questions about your dental and medical history, and discussion of your treatment options.
  • Placement of the dental implants that will be used to support your replacement teeth. Temporary teeth can be placed while the dental implant integrates with your natural bone to form a strong foundation for your replacement teeth. Most people return to work the next day, and any discomfort can typically be treated with commonly used pain medication.
  • Placement of the abutments, or a small extension that will help connect your replacement teeth, on top of each implant, if needed.
  • Placement of a fixed, implant-supported bridge, or custom-made replacement teeth (crowns).

All Teeth (Full Arch)

Traditional replacement of a complete set of upper or lower teeth (arch) using a dental implant is completed over multiple visits:

  • Consultation and planning, including initial exam, imaging of your teeth, questions about your dental and medical history, and discussion of your treatment options.
  • Placement of the dental implants that will be used to support your replacement teeth. Temporary teeth may be placed while the dental implant integrates with your natural bone to form a strong foundation for your replacement tooth. Most people return to work the next day, and any discomfort can typically be treated with commonly used pain medication.
  • Placement of the abutments, or connectors placed on, or built into, the top of the implant to help connect your replacement teeth, if needed. Additional connecting devices needed to attach multiple replacement teeth to the implants also may be placed at this time.
    • Placement of custom-made individual replacement teeth or, most often, an implant-supported fixed bridge or implant-supported overdenture

Alternative Techniques

Some dentists are offering alternative and minimally invasive techniques for dental implants.
Following is an overview of some alternative methods to place dental implants. Consult with us to find the treatment option for missing teeth that is right for you.

  • Immediate Load Dental Implants (Same Day Implants or Teeth in a Day®).  Immediate Load Dental Implants, also called “same day implants” and “teeth in a day,” allow placement of a temporary tooth (crown) during the same appointment as dental implant placement. You will go on about life and work while the dental implant fuses with your natural bone and the long-term custom crown will be placed in about three to six months. The procedure is best for patients who have enough natural bone and an implant that is secure enough to support immediate placement and pressure on the new temporary tooth.

Immediate placement is not appropriate for all patients and cases, so talk with us about the best option for you.

    • Mini Implants. Mini dental implants (MDIs) sometimes referred to as small diameter or narrow diameter implants (SDIs or NDIs), are dental implants that are smaller than the most commonly used dental implant sizes. Mini implants are placed through less-invasive techniques and measure less than 3 millimeters in diameter. Standard implants are slightly larger, usually 3.25 – 5 millimeters in diameter. Mini Implants are often used to secure a complete lower or loose denture and in patients who are not candidates for traditional dental implant surgery.
    • All-on-4.  All-on-4 is an alternative approach to place a full arch (top or bottom set) of fixed, replacement teeth. Four dental implants are used to stabilize the replacement teeth. The All-on-4 concept involves placing implants in available bone, thereby avoiding the need for bone grafting. Special abutments allow a temporary set of replacement teeth to be placed the same day and used with a modified diet while gum tissues heal and the implants integrate with natural bone. After about six months, the final bridge is then placed and the patient is able to resume a normal diet.

The all-on-four approach involves multiple appointments, typically including one or two consultation and planning visits, one to place the dental implants and temporary teeth, check-ups during the six month healing period, and another appointment to place the final bridge.

Bone Augmentation

Some people do not have enough healthy natural bone to support dental implants. Natural bone insufficiency can be caused by:

  • Gum disease
  • Tooth development defects
  • Wearing dentures long term
  • An injury to the face or trauma
  • Spaces left empty in the mouth after teeth are removed
  • Dental procedures where efforts were not made to restore natural bone

Several techniques are used to rebuild bone, restore your natural jaw line and smile, and provide a strong and sturdy foundation for implant-supported teeth. Most patients proceed with everyday life and work often by the next day and continue throughout the months in between dentist appointments.

A dental implant expert can tell you if you need bone augmentation.

Below is an overview of some of the more common techniques to augment bone.

  • Bone Grafts.  Bone grafting is a safe and highly successful procedure that involves the “building up” or adding bone to the jaw by using your own natural bone from another location and/or by using donor, processed or synthetic bone materials. Often the new bone can be obtained from inside the mouth. Ask your dental implant dentist about the advantages of different bone grafting methods and materials so that, together, you can make an informed decision.

Bone grafts are often performed in the implant dentist’s office using local anesthesia to numb the areas that will be involved, sometimes along with intravenous sedation to remove anxiety.

After the procedure, you will usually be given antibiotics, pain medication if needed, and an antibacterial mouthwash, and instructed to avoid eating certain foods and putting pressure on the bone graft. You will return home in between dentist appointments while the bone graft heals and should be able to work and go about your everyday life.

Your implants will be placed after the grafted bone has fused or become a strong, integrated part of the existing bone. The amount of time the integration takes varies depending on the location of the graft and the density of the bone. It may take three or more months.

  • Sinus Lift (Sinus Augmentation or Sinus Elevation). Missing upper back teeth are among the most difficult to restore.  When the back teeth in the upper jaw are missing the sinus cavity becomes larger as the natural bone deteriorates over time. A sinus lift, also called sinus augmentation or sinus elevation, is a bone-augmentation procedure for patients who have insufficient natural bone in this area for dental implant placement. The procedure involves adding bone below the sinus so that one or more implants can be placed. The procedure does not affect speech, intonation or cause sinus problems.

After the bone has been given time to develop, usually for approximately four to 12 months, dental implants can be placed. Sinus augmentation, which many patients say causes only minimal discomfort, is designed to help ensure that your implants are long-lasting, with ample, strong and sturdy bone that will allow your new teeth to fit and function like healthy, natural teeth.

  • Ridge Expansion (Ridge Modification).  If the jaw isn’t wide enough to support dental implants, bone graft material can be added to a small ridge, or space, that is created along the top of the jaw. In some situations implants can be placed right after a ridge expansion. Other situations require approximately four to 12 months to ensure that the ridge has fully healed first.  Like all bone grafting techniques, ridge expansion helps ensure a strong foundation and long lifespan for your new teeth. It also can be used to correct an unattractive and difficult-to-clean indentation that can occur in the jawline near missing teeth