Before development of dental implants, dentures were the only alternative to replacing a missing tooth or teeth. Implants are synthetic structures that are placed in the area of the tooth normally occupied by the root. Implants are anchored to the jawbone or metal framework on the bone and act as a foundation for an artificial tooth or permanent bridge. In some cases, implants can be used to attach dentures. Implants are so well-designed, they mimic the look and feel of natural teeth. Implants are usually made of a synthetic yet biocompatible material like metal or ceramic.
Not everyone is a candidate for a dental implant. For a successful implant to take hold, a candidate must have proper bone density and have a strong immune system. Diabetics and people with chronic bruxism (teeth clenching) are generally not favorable candidates. In all cases, dental implants require strict oral hygiene. In general, good candidates who have dental implants can expect high success rates with the procedure.
Types of implants
- Full upper replacements: The upper set of teeth is replaced with implants.
- Anterior replacement: Implants are used to replace the front teeth (also called incisors and cupids).
- Full lower replacement: The lower set of teeth is replaced with implants. Full lower replacement usually only uses six implants (near the front), which are used to anchor a denture. This obviates the need for denture adhesive.
- Posterior replacement: Implants are used to replace the bicuspids and molars (the back teeth).
Steps for these procedures include:
- Missing tooth roots are replaced with implants, which are covered under the gum line.
- A healing period of six months allows implants to take.
- The implants are uncovered and extensions attached.
- Replacement teeth are affixed to the implants and extensions.