Dental Implants: The Basics
Let’s begin with the basics – by describing what a standard dental implant consists of in a very general sense. The process begins when your dentist or oral surgeon makes a small incision in your gum tissue and inserts a tiny metal post (typically made of titanium) into your jawbone at the same location of your missing tooth. Once that post in inserted, it fuses to your natural bone tissue – a process that usually takes between 3 and 7 months. After that fusing is complete, you’ll have what is essentially an artificial tooth root.
And in the final step of the procedure, your dentist will affix a new crown to the top of the implant, replacing your missing tooth with an artificial one that looks, feels and functions just like a natural tooth you were born with!
Different Types of Dental Implants
Now that you know the basics, let’s move on to discuss the types of dental implants available, as well as the various uses of dental implants. Generally speaking, there are two categories of implants available:
- Endosteal – This type of implant matches the general description provided above, where the post is inserted in the jawbone and left there to fuse with the natural bone tissue. This is the style of implant that is the most common.
- Subperiosteal – Rather than being implanted into the jawbone, this type of implant is inserted under the gum tissue directly above the jawbone. Subperiosteal implants are typically used for patients who don’t have sufficient jawbone density to accommodate an implant and who can’t undergo one of the procedures intended to augment the jawbone tissue.
Procedures to Strengthen the Jawbone
In order to accommodate an endosteal dental implant, you’ll need to have a sufficient amount of jawbone present to hold the implant. If you have lived with missing teeth for a certain period of time, it’s not unusual to suffer from bone loss in your jaw. This is because bone tissue needs to be stimulated in order to maintain density, and without tooth roots there to stimulate growth, the bone tissue will be compromised. Fortunately, modern dental technology has made it possible to strengthen the jawbone and allow even those patients with weakened bone tissue to enjoy the benefits of dental implants. That technology is called bone grafting.
This procedure involves your dentist or oral surgeon grafting new bone tissue onto the jawbone and allowing time for new bone tissue to grow around the grafted material (which usually takes several months). Grafting material can be taken from a variety of sources, including from another area on your own body, from a cadaver donor, from an animal, or synthetic manufactured material. Falling into the general category of bone grafting are two different procedures, each intended to address bone density in specific areas of the jaw: 1) a sinus lift (also referred to as a “sinus elevation” or “sinus augmentation”) adds grafted material below the sinus cavity where the natural bone tissue is depleted; and 2) a ridge expansion, where grafted material is added to a ridge along the top of your jaw in an effort to widen the jawbone enough to accommodate an implant.
Different Dental Implant Techniques
We mentioned earlier what is involved in the typical dental implant procedure – i.e., your dentist implants a post into your jawbone, waits for it to fuse with bone tissue, then affixes an artificial tooth to the top. This basic procedure is the one that is typically used to replace one or more missing teeth. But there are other implant procedures available, as well as other uses for dental implants. The specific type of procedure you will undergo will depend on how your implants will be used.
Once your dentist or oral surgeon has strengthened your jawbone sufficiently to prepare you for your implant procedure, he or she may recommend any of the following implant techniques as an alternative to the basic procedure described above:
- Mini dental implants – “MDIs” (also referred to as narrow/small diameter implants) are used to stabilize dentures. They consist of much smaller posts that are implanted using a less invasive procedure than the standard implant. Stabilizing dentures with MDIs provides several benefits to the denture wearer because the implants keep the denture from slipping or moving inside the mouth.
- Immediate load implants – If you have sufficient jawbone density to accommodate implants, you may have the option of immediate load implants. This procedure involves the basic dental implant procedure, but includes placement of a temporary tooth onto the implant on the same day as the implant procedure.
- All-on-4 implants – This process involves inserting four implants into the existing jawbone, then using specially designed abutments to attach a temporary set of teeth that same day. This procedure is designed for people who want implant-supported dentures but don’t want to wait until the implants fuse with the bone tissue before they can get their new dentures. With all-on-4 implants, the patient can wear the temporary set of teeth while the implants fuse to the bone. Then – typically about 6 months later – they will be fitted with a new set of implant-supported permanent replacement teeth.
Dental implants come in a variety of types and procedures, each designed for the various needs of the patients. Whether you want to replace a single tooth, or support an entire set of dentures using implants, chances are you can benefit from this cutting-edge dental technology. For more information about the different types of dental implants available in the Cedar Park, Texas area, contact your dentist today!