A dental implant can be a fixed option to replace a missing tooth or teeth or to provide support and retention for a denture. In this procedure, a small titanium implant root is surgically placed in the jawbone and allowed to integrate. Once the implant is firmly set in the mouth, the dentist then works to attach the replacement crown on top of the implant. This permanent solution has advantages over bridge work because it does not stress the surrounding teeth for support; the surrounding teeth do not need to be prepared or cut down, and the prognosis is typically more favorable long term with a dental implant as compared to a dental bridge.
Implants can also be used as support as part of an implant bridge to permanently restore multiple missing teeth. This is an alternative to removable partial dentures and has several advantages. First, there is no adjustment period often accompanied with denture sores. Second, dental implants slow bone loss resulting after tooth loss. Third, there is no discomfort or difficulty with dentures that might move around in the mouth while eating. Best of all, implant bridges are a permanent tooth replacement solution and do not need to be taken out each night.
Finally, implants can be used to provide support and retention for a full denture. An implant-supported denture is a type of overdenture that is supported by and attached to implants leaving it more stable than a regular denture that rests on the gums and may be loose and uncomfortable. An implant-supported 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 the implants. Implant-supported dentures usually are made for the lower jaw because regular dentures tend to be less stable there. A non-implant supported denture made to fit an upper jaw is quite stable on its own and doesn’t often need the extra support offered by implants. However, an implant supported denture can be made for the upper or lower jaw.
Success of implants requires healthy gums and adequate bone support. Meticulous oral hygiene and regular dental visits are critical to the long term prognosis of dental implants.