In the old days, once a tooth was lost, it was gone for good. Thankfully, dental implants now allow us to provide strong, life-like replacements that can last a lifetime. An implant is a synthetic tooth root that replaces a missing or broken-down tooth and preserves the bone that is typically lost when a tooth is removed.
Dental implants require two steps: a minor surgical procedure to place the implant, and a restorative procedure to create the replacement tooth or teeth. Once an implant is placed, there is a 3-4 month waiting period to allow the bone around the implant to heal completely before the restoration takes place. Modern implant placements are straightforward with minimal patient discomfort.
Single Tooth Replacement
One of the most common uses of a dental implant is to replace a single missing tooth. In this case, following the implant placement and healing time, the process to restore the implant is very similar to having a crown placed on a natural tooth - without the drilling! An impression is made of the implant and surrounding teeth, and a dental laboratory fabricates a permanent crown that is fixed on the implant.
Multiple Tooth Replacement
Implants can also be used to replace multiple missing teeth. Two or more dental implants are placed, and these implants are utilized to replace multiple missing teeth in the mouth. When replacing multiple teeth with a non-removable restoration, the process is very similar to a single crown. An impression is taken of the remaining teeth and the implants in place, and a dental laboratory creates a restoration that is screwed into the implant.
Implants and Dentures
Implants can also be used to stabilize a removable denture. Both complete dentures (replacing an entire arch of teeth) and partial dentures (replacing some, but not all teeth in a jaw) can be made much more stable when supported by implants. These types of dentures can be taken out of the mouth at home, allowing the patient an easy way to clean and maintain the denture, implants, and tissue in the mouth.