What is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is placed into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge. They are an ideal option for people in good general oral health who have lost a tooth or teeth due to periodontal disease, an injury, or some other reason.
While high-tech in nature, dental implants are actually more tooth-saving than traditional bridgework, since they do not rely on neighboring teeth for support They are so natural-looking and feeling, you may forget you ever lost a tooth.You know that your confidence about your teeth affects how you feel about yourself, both personally and professionally. Perhaps you hide your smile because of spaces from missing teeth.
Maybe your dentures don’t feel secure. Perhaps you have difficulty chewing. If you are missing one or more teeth and would like to smile, speak and eat again with comfort and confidence, there is good news! Dental implants are teeth that can look and feel just like your own! Under proper conditions, they can last a lifetime. Long-term studies continue to show improving success rates for implants.
Dental Implants May be the Perfect Solution
Implant retained, or an implant-supported denture, is a type of overdenture that is supported by and attached to implants.
A regular denture rests on the gums, and is not supported by implants.
This type of denture is used when a person doesn’t have any teeth in the jaw, but has enough bone in the jaw to support implants. An implant-supported denture has special attachments that snap onto attachments on them.
Implant-supported dentures usually are made for the lower jaw because regular dentures tend to be less stable there.
Usually, a regular denture made to fit an upper jaw is quite stable on its own and doesn’t need the extra support. However, you can receive an implant-supported denture in either the upper or lower jaw.
What Implants Can Do
- Replace one or more teeth without affecting bordering teeth.
- Support a bridge and eliminate the need for a removable partial denture
- Provide support for a denture, making it more secure and comfortable.
Advantages of Dental Implants Over Dentures or a Bridge
Every way you look at it, they are a better solution to the problem of missing teeth.
- Esthetic–Dental implants look and feel like your own teeth! Since dental implants integrate into the structure of your bone, they prevent the bone loss and gum recession that often accompany bridgework and dentures. No one will ever know that you have a replacement tooth.
- Tooth-saving–Dental implants don’t sacrifice the quality of your adjacent teeth like a bridge does because neighboring teeth are not altered to support the implant. More of your own teeth are left untouched, a significant long-term benefit to your oral health!
- Confidence–Dental implants will allow you to once again speak and eat with comfort and confidence! They are secure and offer freedom from the irksome clicks and wobbles of dentures. They’ll allow you to say goodbye to worries about misplaced dentures and messy pastes and glues.
- Reliable–The success rate of dental implants is highly predictable. They are considered an excellent option for tooth replacement.
Are You a Candidate for Dental Implants?
The ideal candidate for a dental implant is in good general and oral health. Adequate bone in your jaw is needed to support the implant, and the best candidates have healthy gum tissues that are free of periodontal disease.
How Does It Work?
There are two types of implant-supported dentures: bar-retained and ball-retained.
In both cases, the denture will be made of an acrylic base that will look like gums.
Porcelain or acrylic teeth that look like natural teeth are attached to the base.
Both types of dentures need at least two implants for support.
- Bar-retained dentures — A thin metal bar that follows the curve of your jaw is attached to two to five implants that have been placed in your jawbone. Clips or other types of attachments are fitted to the bar, the denture or both. The denture fits over the bar and is securely clipped into place by the attachments.
- Ball-retained dentures (stud-attachment dentures) — Each implant in the jawbone holds a metal attachment that fits into another attachment on the denture. In most cases, the attachments on the implants are ball-shaped (“male” attachments), and they fit into sockets (“female” attachments) on the denture. In some cases, the denture holds the male attachments and the implants hold the female ones.
What Is Treatment Like?
Depending on your specific condition and the type of implant chosen, Dr. Shumway will create a treatment plan tailored to meet your needs.
- Replacing a Single Tooth–If you are missing a single tooth, one implant and a crown can replace it. A dental implant replaces both the lost natural tooth and its root.
- Replacing Several Teeth–If you are missing several teeth, implant-supported bridges can replace them. Dental implants will replace both your lost natural teeth and some of the roots.
- Replacing All of Your Teeth–If you are missing all of your teeth, an implant-supported full bridge or full denture can replace them. It will replace both your lost natural teeth and some of the roots.
- Sinus Augmentation–A key to implant success is the quantity and quality of the bone where the implant is to be placed. The upper back jaw has traditionally been one of the most difficult areas to successfully place dental implants due to insufficient bone quantity and quality and the close proximity to the sinus. Sinus augmentation can help correct this problem by raising the sinus floor and developing bone for the placement of dental implants.
- Ridge Modification–Deformities in the upper or lower jaw can leave you with inadequate bone in which to place dental implants. To correct the problem, the gum is lifted away from the ridge to expose the bony defect. The defect is then filled with bone or bone substitute to build up the ridge. Ridge modification has been shown to greatly improve appearance and increase your chances for successful implants that can last for years to come.
The Implant Process
The implants usually are placed in the jawbone at the front of your mouth because there tends to be more bone in the front of the jaw than in the back. This usually is true even if teeth have been missing for some time. Once you lose teeth, you begin to lose bone in the area. Also, the front jaw doesn’t have many nerves or other structures that could interfere with the placement of implants.
The time frame to complete the implant depends on many factors. The shortest time frame is about five months in the lower jaw and seven months in the upper jaw. This includes surgeries and the placement of the denture. However, the process can last a year or more, especially if you need bone grafting or other preliminary procedures.
Two surgeries usually are needed. The first one places the implants in the jawbone under your gums. The second surgery exposes the tops of the implants. The second procedure comes three to six months after the first.
A one-stage procedure is now used sometimes. In this procedure, your dentist can place the implants and the supporting bar in one step. The success rate of this procedure is high.
During the exam, Dr. Shumway will review your medical and dental histories, take images and create impressions of your teeth and gums so that models can be made. If you are not already wearing a complete denture to replace your missing teeth, your dentist will make you one.
- Month 1 (if no denture needs to be made)
- Month 2 (if denture needs to be made)
The first surgery involves placing the implants in the jawbone. During the first surgery, an incision is made in the gum where the implant will be placed. A hole is drilled in the bone, the implant is placed into the hole, and the incision is stitched closed.
After this surgery, you should avoid putting pressure on the implants. A temporary denture can be made so that direct pressure is placed on other areas, not on the implants. It may also be given a soft reline (new lining next to your gums) to help to reduce the pressure on your gums.
After the first surgery, the dentist will wait three or four months if implants were placed in the lower jaw, and five or six months if they were placed in the upper jaw, before scheduling the second surgery. During this time, the bone and the implants integrate (attach and fuse).
- Month 4 or 5 (no denture needed to be made)
- Month 5 or 6 (denture needed to be made)
Once the implants have become fused with the bone, the second surgery can be scheduled. Your dentist will confirm whether the implant is ready for the second surgery by taking an X-ray. This surgery is simpler than the first. A small incision is made in your gum to expose the tops (heads) of the implants.
A healing cap (collar) is placed on the head of each implant after it is exposed. This guides the gum tissue to heal correctly. The collar is a round piece of metal that holds the gums away from the head of the implant. The collar will be in place for 10 to 14 days. The dentists will adjust your temporary denture again and it may be given another soft reline. The reline material will secure the denture to the healing abutments.
About two weeks after the second surgery, the healing caps will be replaced with regular abutments. Your gums should now be healed enough for your dentist to make an impression of your gum tissue and abutments. The impression is used to make a working model of your abutments and jaw. This model is used to make the denture framework and teeth.
Denture Try-In and Insertion
- Month 5 or 6 (no denture needed to be made)
- Month 6 or 7 (denture needed to be made)
At this point, the metal bar is placed on the abutments. You will have the first try-in of your new denture framework to see if it fits properly. Once the metal bar and the denture framework have been fitted together properly, the teeth are temporarily placed on the framework in wax. The whole denture is then tried in your mouth. If everything works well, the teeth are secured in the denture framework permanently. The bar or ball attachments also will be secured.
You will have to return to Dr. Shumway for another visit to have the completed denture inserted. When the denture is inserted, the denture is clipped onto the bar or snapped onto the ball attachments.
In addition to the risks of surgery and of the implants failing, a bar-retained denture carries certain risks of its own. A bar-retained denture needs space on the denture framework for the special attachments that are fitted to the bar. This means that there is less space available on the denture framework for the teeth to be fitted. Because of this, the teeth sometimes can come loose from the base. This problem is easily fixed.
What Can You Expect From Your Implant-Supported Denture?
As you know, your own teeth require conscientious at-home oral care and regular dental visits. Dental implants are like your own teeth and will require the same care. In order to keep your implant clean and plaque-free, brushing and flossing still apply! After treatment, Dr Shumway will help you to develop the best care plan for you. Periodic follow-up visits will be scheduled to monitor your implant, teeth and gums to make sure they are healthy.
Your implant-supported denture will be more stable than a regular denture. You will find it easier to speak and you won’t have to worry about the denture becoming loose or falling out of your mouth. You generally will be able to eat foods you could not eat before.
If you have an implant-supported denture in your upper jaw, it can be made to cover less of your palate (roof of your mouth) than a regular denture. That’s because the implants are holding it in place instead of the suction created between the full denture and your palate.