In implant dentistry, devices are used to replace missing teeth. They are made of titanium, an inert metal that bonds with the bone, forming a very tight union called osseointegration. The modern system of dental implants, the endosseous system, is extremely successful and has a 90% to 95% success rate.
The dental implant itself replaces the root of the tooth. It is usually in the shape of a screw or a cylinder. The implant connects to a component (the abutment) that joins the implant to the replacement tooth (the crown).
Dental implants are ideal replacements for teeth. When healthy teeth have to be prepared for crowns or bridges, healthy tooth structure needs to be removed. But if only one tooth is missing, the dental implant can simply replace it without having to sacrifice the adjacent teeth.
Dental implants can also be used to replace many missing teeth. Multiple teeth can be replaced with implant dentistry and can avoid the need for a removable denture. Removable dentures can be hard to get used to. They may have clasps that can be unsightly and put additional stress on the existing teeth. Full dentures may be difficult to wear and may interfere with eating and speaking. People who wear dentures for a long time may have additional loss of the bone that supports the denture. This bone loss can be accelerated by osteoporosis, and eventually dentures may be very difficult to wear if not impossible. Poor-fitting dentures can interfere with proper nutrition and quality of life.
Generally, one implant is needed to replace each missing tooth. In some situations, several implants need to be joined together into a bridge. This adds greater strength to the implant restoration. If there is not enough bone available to replace a whole set of teeth, implants may be used as anchors for dentures. When dentures are supported by implants they can be much more stable and the implants help prevent the deterioration of the bone that supports the denture.
The endosseous system of implant dentistry has been used for over 30 years. They can look and feel like natural teeth, adding comfort and improving the smile of people of all ages.
By Laura Minsk, DMD