Dental implants offer a modern alternative to bridges, crowns and even removable full or partial dentures. Implants are frequently used as anchors for synthetic teeth as well as replacements for a tooth lost through injury or decay.
Implants typically consist of three parts. The first part is attached to the patient’s jawbone. The bone will bond with this insert through a process known as osseointegration. This provides a very stable, strong support when chewing or biting. The second part of an implant is the prosthetic, such as a crown, bridge or denture, that is attached to the abutment. These prosthetics can be fixed or removable, depending on each patient’s particular needs.
To replace an individual tooth or create an anchor for a fixed bridge, the typical procedure is to secure the abutment with a special screw. In some cases, the implant can be fabricated in one piece. Usually, however, the porcelain crown is attached separately using dental cement or a tiny screw.
For removable dentures, the procedure is slightly more complex. The abutment is shaped like a bar, button or other small device that is connected to an adapter on the dentures. The wearer uses his or her finger to apply pressure to the button or bar to release the adapter so that the dentures can be removed. Wearers of implant-supported removable dentures report less slippage and greater functionality versus wearers of dentures secured with adhesives.
Patients who choose implant-supported dentures can expect to have more than one abutment placed for support. The exact number varies by patient, but four abutments is the approximate number required for each arch. Fixed bridges often require at least two abutments, but again, this number can vary.
Good dental hygiene similar to the care given to natural teeth should be practiced by patients with implants. This includes careful flossing, adequate cleaning and regular dental check-ups. With the proper care, implants should provide many years of trouble-free functionality.