If you’ve lost one or more teeth, you know all too well how it can negatively affect the quality of your life. Not only can it make it hard to enjoy certain foods (an obvious disadvantage); it can also throw off your bite, cause uneven wear on your remaining teeth, and even affect the way you speak. That’s why it’s so important to replace missing teeth as soon as possible. Fortunately, modern dental technology offers many options designed specifically for that purpose. Most of us are familiar with bridges and partial dentures, but you may not know as much about dental implants. That’s why we’ve compiled the information in this article – to explain the different types of implants available so you and your dentist can decide which would be best for you.
An Introduction to Dental Implant Technology
An implant consists of a tiny metal rod (usually made from titanium) that is inserted into the jawbone of the patient and left to fuse into the jawbone tissue – a process that typically takes a few months. Once that part of the procedure is complete, the dentist or oral surgeon affixes a crown to the top of the implant. The end result is a permanent replacement tooth that not only looks and functions just like a natural tooth; it feels just like all the patient’s other teeth.
Types of Implants
Now that you know the basics about this tooth-replacement technology, it’s time to explore the various types of implants available to patients. It’s important to keep in mind that not every dentist or oral surgeon will offer every type, but knowing what is available beforehand will allow you to have a more informed discussion with your oral health care provider when deciding which type of implant would be best for you.
Two Major Categories: Endosteal Implants and Subperiosteal Implants
- Endosteal implants – Often used instead of a bridge or a removable denture, endosteal implants are the most commonly used form of implant. They consist of a titanium screw that is implanted into the jawbone to fuse with the bone tissue and form an artificial tooth root. Once that process is done, an artificial tooth is placed on top of the implant.
- Subperiosteal implant – A less common form is the subperiosteal implant. These consist of a rod that is inserted into the gum tissue, but rests on top of the bone below rather than being inserted into it. Since no fusing is involved, the procedure involved in getting a subperiosteal implant is much shorter than that required for an endosteal implant. This type of implant is much less stable than an endosteal implant and is typically used as a means to hold dentures in place rather than to support a replacement tooth.
Dental Implant Material Choices
As you might expect, there is a wide variety of material choices when it comes to dental implants. Although the rod that is inserted into the jawbone is most often made from titanium, the connector that sits on top of the implant can vary (a choice that is normally made by your dentist or oral surgeon). Similarly, the exact size of the implant will be different depending on the patient’s needs — standard platform, wide platform and narrow body.
Dental Implant Methods
You and your dentist or oral surgeon will decide which type of implant is right for you based on considerations such as where the implant will be located inside your mouth, the density of your jawbone, etc. What follows are different types of dental implant methods most commonly used:
- Single-tooth implants – The most straightforward method of implant surgery is the one designed to replace a single missing tooth. As described above, it involves inserting a metal rod into the jawbone, waiting for that rod to fuse to the bone tissue, then affixing a replacement tooth to the top of the implant.
- Multiple teeth implants – For patients who are missing several teeth in a row, having multiple implants to replace each of those individual teeth is often preferable to other tooth-replacement options, such as a bridge or a partial denture, for example.
- All-on-four implants – This method involves insertion of implants that will act as anchors for a dental prosthesis that will attach permanently to the implants and cannot be removed by the patient. Particularly helpful for people who have lost all their teeth, the process involves the dentist or oral surgeon implanting four (or sometimes more) titanium posts in the jawbone of the patient at strategic locations inside the mouth. Once fused to the bone tissue, these posts will act as anchors for a custom-made set of permanent, non-removable dentures. Essentially, it’s like getting a brand new set of natural teeth!
- Mini dental implants – Just as the name implies, mini implants are much smaller than conventional implants and include a ball-shaped tip on the end that protrudes out of the gum tissue. This type of implant is normally used as a way to secure loose-fitting upper or lower removable dentures or partials. Because these implants are so much smaller than the conventional type, the procedure involved is less invasive and less time-consuming.
- Immediate load implants – This method allows the patient to get a full set of replacement teeth in a single day! Sometimes referred to as “Teeth in a Day,” the process involved with immediate load implants involves inserting implants in strategic places throughout the mouth, then providing the patient with a temporary set of replacement teeth until the implants are fully healed and ready to support a permanent prosthetic device.
Your dentist or oral surgeon can provide more information on the different types of dental implants available and which is the right choice for you. Whether you need to replace one or more missing teeth, need an entirely new dental prosthesis, or simply want to secure your existing dentures, these different types of dental implants can help you dramatically improve your overall oral health. The process may be time-consuming, but the end result is a durable and permanent way to replace missing teeth!