Dental implants

Implants are a man-made replacement for the natural tooth root.  They are the best tooth replacement option in dentistry today.  An implant can replace one missing tooth or multiple missing teeth.  Implants can also be used to anchor dentures.  Implants will improve your ability to eat your favorite foods, will prevent bone loss, and will improve your oral health and overall health.  Click here to download a brochure that discusses bone loss and compares implants to bridges, partial dentures, and full dentures.   

Click here to learn more about the BioHorizons implants that we proudly offer.


Single tooth replacement

When one tooth is missing, an implant is the first replacement option.  There are three parts to an implant tooth replacement: the implant, the abutment, and the crown.  The implant replaces the root of the tooth and sits at the level of the gums.  The abutment is attached to the top of the implant and stands above the level of the gums, which allows a crown to be cemented onto the implant.

The patient shown below is missing the lower right first molar.  The area is numbed and the implant is placed in the bone to replace the root of the missing tooth.   For a few days afterward it may be as sore as having a tooth extracted, though some patients report that it wasn’t sore at all.  Once the implant is placed a healing period of 3 to 6 month occurs. Sometimes the gums will cover the implant during healing as shown in the first photo. In other cases a temporary crown can be placed on the implant during the healing phase.  The second photo shows the post (called the abutment) that is attached to the top of the implant.  A crown is then made and cemented on the implant, as shown in the third photo.  The blue spots are blue ink marking paper to check the bite on the new crown; this ink is easily wiped off.  In the x-ray notice the implant (the artificial root) looks different than the roots of the natural teeth.  With good oral hygiene, an implant can last 13-30 years.

 

 

Replacing multiple teeth

Implant bridges can replace a few teeth or all teeth.  Here is an example of an implant bridge for the back teeth:

 

 

Here is an example of an implant bridge for front teeth:

 

 

 

When all teeth are missing, implants can replace them.  The patient shown below had broken, missing, and abscessed teeth.  He said he hadn’t smiled confidently in 10 years.  He wanted to be able to eat and smile again.  He was interested in replacing all of his teeth with implants.  This was his condition before treatment:

 

His teeth were replaced with 17 implants and 26 new teeth made of porcelain-metal bridges. It took about nine months to complete treatment.  Now he can eat whatever he wants.  With better nutrition he will be healthier.  Implants support the bone (like the roots of natural teeth do) so he won’t suffer from bone loss like denture wearers do.  He smiles more.  He is happier.  Having a healthy mouth has changed his life!

 

Implants and dentures

Problems common to dentures are sore spots on the gums, loose dentures, and difficulty eating.  Without implants dentures have 30% the bite strength of natural teeth.  Implants can help to solve these problems.  When implants are used to anchor dentures, an attachment is added inside the denture to snap onto the implants.  The denture will shift less, cause fewer sore spots, and improve eating.  Two implants under a lower denture is a common treatment.  More implants will increase the stability and strength of the dentures even more.  More implants will stop bone loss.

Here is an example of a lower denture attached to two implants:

Implants visible without lower denture in place

Attachments inside lower denture

Denture in place

Here is an example of an upper denture attached to a bar supported by six implants:

Retention bar attached to six implants in the upper jaw

The outside of the denture

Attachments inside the denture

The denture in place

Notice that this implant denture has no palate.  A non-implant denture covers the palate for support.  An implant denture is supported by the implants and may not need to cover the palate; patients find a palate-less denture to be more comfortable while speaking and eating.  When a denture is attached to this many implants it feels rigid and restores 80-90% of the chewing strength compared to natural teeth.

 

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I too old for implants?

Health – not age – is the determining factor for implant placement.  Your dentist will review your health history prior to implant surgery. A 65 year-old today has a 50% chance of living past age 85 and a 25% chance of living to age 95.  Implants are a good investment in your health if you expect to live another 7 years.

Being too young may prevent you from having implants.  Implants can only be placed once growth of the jaw bones has completed.  This is usually after age 15 in girls and after age 17 in boys.

Aren’t implants expensive?

Depending on the complexity of your treatment plan, implants may involve a significant investment.  Previous implant patients report that not only was it worth the investment, but they would gladly do it again. Some dental insurance plans cover a portion of implant fees.  Payment plans are available as well.  Our financial coordinator can assist you with these payment options.

How long does treatment take?

It depends on your needs.  Implant appointments range from 30 minutes to a few hours and are scheduled over the course of several months to observe proper healing.

Will I have a tooth while I’m waiting for the implant to heal?

During the healing phase a temporary tooth can be provided in a partial denture or a clear retainer.  The partial denture is held in place by pink acrylic on the roof of the mouth.

Temporary partial denture

Temporary partial denture in place

Temporary tooth in clear retainer

Will there be discomfort?

As with any surgery, there can be some pain for a few days after implant placement.  Post-operative pain can be similar to having a tooth removed.  Anesthetics, sedatives, and medications will help alleviate the discomfort.  After the first few days, the implant should be painless.

How long do implants last?

Some implants have lasted 30 years, though this is not the average.  Your home care is an important factor in making implants last.  Chronic conditions like diabetes, or smoking and excessive alcohol intake increase the risk of implant loss and make home care much more important.  You’ll have to take better care of your implant than the tooth that was lost.