An implant is a fixed prosthesis that replaces missing teeth. The implant process involves surgically placing a post made of titanium and other biocompatible materials in the tooth root area, then allowing the implant to integrate into the jawbone and heal for a few months before restoring with a crown, bridge, or removable partial or full denture.
Unlike a removable partial denture, an implant is fixed in bone and is not removed. An implant-supported bridge can be used to replace two or three missing teeth, and for larger spans of missing teeth a removable appliance can be placed over the implant posts. The false tooth part of a bridge is called a pontic. The parts of the bridge that are located next to other teeth are called abutments.
Missing teeth may also be replaced through use of removable partial or full dentures or in some cases with fixed bridgework.
Implants are very long-lasting restorations and can restore lost teeth in a way that before had to be restored by removable appliances. With our newer generation of implant materials, we have a very high success rate for osseointegration; however, it is difficult to predict the actual longevity of these materials.
Because the natural teeth on either side of the space do not have to be ground down, the implant is a more conservative restoration. In some circumstances, however, a bridge is still a good option especially when the teeth on either side of the missing space already have crowns or need them for proper restoration of teeth. When there are no teeth on the other side of the missing tooth, the only treatment option is to place an implant-supported restoration or a removable partial denture.
An implant option for replacing missing teeth may not covered by some insurance plans and if that is the case a bridge may be the most cost-effective restoration. Jaw shape, the presence of sinuses, heavy smoking, some chronic illnesses, and a few other factors can complicate the placement of dental implants and additional procedures, such as bone grafting, may be necessary to ensure success. Another disadvantage is there is a wait from the time of implant placement to the time of restoration. During the period while waiting for osseointegration to occur, a removable temporary appliance is indicated. Use of a removable temporary is advantageous to place instead of a cemented one to allow for optimal healing of the implant. In a highly aesthetic area, an immediate temporary cemented crown may be placed, but the feasibility for this option must be evaluated for each individual situation.
Care of Implant
The care of an implant is the same as for any other tooth with the addition of taking care to not scratch the soft titanium of the implant with metal objects.
What an implant Looks Like
Most implants look just like natural teeth. Sometimes the implant neck may be a little narrow but in most cases this is in the far back where it remains unseen. Modern ceramic prosthetic techniques allow very natural looking tooth replacement, even for front teeth. Below is a photograph of a front tooth replaced by an implant that is very hard to differentiate from a natural tooth.