Implants can be used to replace one or more missing teeth.
- If one tooth is missing, a single implant with a single crown on top of it is used.
- If two or more adjacent teeth are missing, one or more implants with crowns, bridges or dentures are used.
The implant itself is an artificial root made of titanium. It is placed into the bone, completely below the gum line, by a surgeon- usually either a periodontist or an oral surgeon. After about 6-12 weeks, the bone has grown around the implant and we can begin building a crown, bridge or denture on top of it.
If we are placing a crown or bridge on top of the implant, we first place an “abutment” on the implant. This gives us something for the crown or bridge to attach to. The abutment can be either a stock abutment or a custom abutment.
Stock abutments are premade and have predetermined shapes, which can work well if the surgeon was able to place the implant in an ideal spot in the bone. Custom abutments can be shaped any way we want, which gives them a couple of key advantages.
- They are more esthetic because they can better mimic the shape of a natural tooth as it comes out of the gums.
- And they can correct any angulation problems caused by an implant which is not in an ideal location.
If we are placing a denture on top of the implants, we place a different kind of abutment into the implants, then we place some attachments into the denture which clip onto the abutments. This give the denture much greater retention and stability than it would have by itself.
Implants are usually the most expensive option for replacing missing teeth. And they do require minor surgery, comparable to surgical extractions, to place. But once in place, they feel the most like your own natural teeth. You can floss implants like natural teeth. They are strong for chewing because they are held in place by the jaw bone. And nothing except maybe some minor adjustments needs to be done to the neighboring teeth, unlike a tooth supported bridge which requires crowning the neighbors.