There’s no substitute for healthy, natural teeth. It’s the system designed by nature for starting the digestion process with efficient biting and chewing. Your teeth are also an essential part of speech, working with your larynx and tongue to make the sounds that are uniquely you. However, things happen, and sometimes teeth are lost, whether to injury, decay, or disease.
Artificial teeth replacements have been, until recently, largely temporary and removable solutions. Replacements clipped around remaining teeth or, in the case of losing all of your teeth, full denture plates that sit over your gums with varying levels of success. These frequently slip or trap food, as well as require special care, including the nightly soak in a container of solution.
It’s no surprise that the best solution for tooth loss emulates the natural construction of your teeth. Dental implants are the only tooth replacement method that interacts with the bones of your jaws, similar to the roots of your natural teeth. Let’s take a deeper look at this well-established dental technique, with which many are still unfamiliar.
Dental implant systems
If you think of the shape of your natural teeth, you likely know that roughly half the tooth is visible above the gum line, while the other half, the root, is embedded in the bone of your jaw. This interaction between tooth and bone keeps your mouth healthy. With tooth loss, it’s possible for the bone of your jaw to deteriorate around the point of the lost root.
There are two general types of dental implants, and both work with your bones in a process called osseointegration. The most common implant type uses a titanium screw that emulates the root of a tooth and serves as the attachment point for the tooth restoration above it.
For some patients, implanting a screw isn’t possible due to lack of bone mass. For this person, the other type of implant uses a mesh that wraps over the jaw bone, which then grows over the implant. Posts attached to the mesh then serve as the attachment point for the tooth restoration.
Posts and crowns
The dental implant procedure isn’t a fast process. Once the implant portion is in place, osseointegration – the process of bone and implant fusing with each other – takes place over several months. Once the implant base is in place and healed, then the remainder of your teeth restoration can begin. This is usually the placement of a crown that resembles a natural tooth over the embedded post.
While dental implants often replicate the tooth/root model, this isn’t the only way implants can function. The implant and post serve as the basis for restoring lost teeth, but it doesn’t have to be a single implant/single tooth process.
If you’re missing several teeth, you may have more than one restoration mounted on a single implant post. Longer stretches of missing teeth may require two implants, one at each end, with a bridge of restorations between them. These are typically permanent installations that look and function as close to natural teeth as possible.
Implants can also serve as the foundation for dentures. Instead of simply fitting over your gums, implant dentures use the implanted posts as clipping points, creating a positive lock while your plates are in your mouth. Your dentures snap onto the posts. Gone are the problems of slipping while you eat or talk. The top plate no longer needs to cover your entire palette, so there’s no need for adhesives. This capability with dentures adds to the versatility of dental implant systems.
If you’re missing teeth and currently have an empty space or use a removable bridge or plate, dental implants may be a better solution. You can learn more about dental implants and implant dentures on the Services page of the Richardson Implant and Dentistry website, or ask Dr. Naren Mikkilineni about implants at your next visit.