What are dental implants?
Dental implants are one of several options for replacing missing teeth. They are, generally speaking, titanium screws that are implanted into the bone. After a healing period, a prosthetic component, which may be a crown, bridge, or even denture, is made and attached to the implant. Dental implants are widely regarded as the most natural option for replacing missing teeth since they do not require preparation of any additional teeth and function very similarly to your natural teeth.
Implant and Components side by side with a natural tooth.
Cross-sectional view (inside the bone) of an implant.
Why is an implant the best choice?
Generally speaking, there are 3 options to replace a missing tooth: an implant, a fixed bridge, or a removable partial. A removable partial is usually the least desirable because it must be taken out each night and is noticeable as it covers other parts of your mouth. A fixed bridge is often a more comfortable option than a removable partial because it stays in place; however, it requires the preparation (grinding down) of the neighboring teeth, which otherwise may not require any work done. Bridges can be challenging to keep clean, and if either of the teeth supporting the bridge begins to fail, the entire bridge will need to be replaced. If either of these teeth is lost, an additional potentially good tooth (or two) will need to be ground down for adequate support of a new bridge. For these reasons, an implant is most conservative with respect to the other teeth, while also maintaining bone in the area of the missing tooth, unlike a bridge.
Comparative view of an implant vs. a 3-unit fixed bridge.
What can you expect during the process?
There are generally two scenarios which would call for an implant: either an already missing tooth (or teeth) or a tooth requiring extraction. Regardless of which situation you are facing, we will take a cone beam 3-D x-ray to fully evaluate the amount of bone and location of other anatomic structures that we need to avoid. If a tooth needs to be extracted, the amount and quality of bone, in addition to the extent of any infection present, will determine whether an implant can be placed immediately at the time of extraction. If this is not possible, a bone graft will be placed at the extraction site to help guide the healing process and maximize the amount of available bone for implant placement. After a healing period of approximately 4 months, or in the case of an already missing tooth with adequate bone, an implant will be placed.
When grafting is necessary, the tooth is removed and the socket is filled with graft material.
After 3-4 months, the site is fully healed with new bone and ready for implant placement.
The Next Step in the Implant Process
It is important to address the missing space that is being restored since implants usually require 2-4 months of healing time before a crown can be placed. During that healing time, the teeth on either side or in the opposite arch may begin to shift towards the open space.
These figures show the shifting that may occur when a tooth is missing or during the healing phase of treatment.
By temporarily restoring this space, this shifting is prevented until a final crown is in place. There are three basic options: a flipper (acrylic partial), an Essix appliance (clear tray), or a temporary implant crown. It is important to remember that the purpose of any of these options is to maintain the space, NOT to chew!
Temporary Implant Crowns
The Benefits of Computer-Guided Implants
By coordinating our cone beam 3-D x-ray with CEREC technology, we can plan and import the future crown into your 3-D X-ray. This combination of data allows us to plan your implant in the most favorable position with regard to both the future crown and the anatomical structures in the area. A surgical guide is then made to ensure that the implant is placed exactly where planned. Our goal is to remove any guesswork from this process, providing the patient with faster, more comfortable surgery and more predictable results.
A CAD/CAM or optical impression of the teeth is superimposed over the 3-D X-ray.
The future crown is planned (in red) and used to determine the ideal 3-D position for the implant.
A view from the 3-D X-ray showing the proposed implant position.
Post-op X-ray confirming implant placement exactly as planned.
Are all implants created equal?
No - there are various features of every dental implant that impact their overall survival and patient satisfaction. We feel strongly that the best implant will yield the best result, which is why we exclusively place Straumann Roxolid implants. These implants are a titanium-zirconium alloy, which makes them the strongest implant on the market. Additionally, their leading surface technology promotes faster integration, thus shortening overall treatment times.
Are implants right for you?
Let us decide together. Call us today for a no-fee consultation in our Montville, NJ office!