What Dental Implants Are – And Aren’t

added on: August 10, 2011

I once had a patient ask me if his implanted teeth would be held in his mouth by screws. Although this sounds rather ‘Frankenstein-ish,’ it did give me an opportunity to clear up some confusion as to his impression of what Dental Implants are, and aren’t.

Dental implants are actually tooth root replacements and can replace one, several or an entire arch of missing teeth. Although several, strategically-placed implants can replace a full denture, the teeth are attached to posts that are secured inside the implanted portion.

Implants are made of titanium, which is a metal proven to be biologically safe, meaning it is not rejected by the body. Once implanted in the jaw, the bone grows around it, securing it in place. This gives you the same, strong foundation as that of natural teeth.

Some implants are designed to hold one tooth while others can support a bridge of several teeth. When a patient is without teeth (either upper or lower), a full arch of teeth can be attached to several implants that have been strategically placed to bear the load of biting and chewing pressure.

Typically, for a full arch of teeth, non-removable teeth require more implants. However, new implant systems like the All-On-4, use only 4 implants on the upper or lower. This is because of a unique angle in placement that also makes implant placement possible for those who have experienced bone loss.

Generally, bone loss occurs in people who have worn dentures for a number of years. Without the stimulation of tooth roots, the jaw bone begins to shrink. Over time, this bone loss can be seen in facial changes by deep wrinkling around the mouth, a sunken-in appearance of the mouth and a pointed chin. Bone loss also makes eating difficult. As the bone continues to shrink, denture pastes, adhesives and even relines don’t help much.

One of the nicest things about dental implants, in my opinion, is their longevity. Once placed and properly maintained, they should last your lifetime. Overall, dental implants are about the wisest investment you can make for your health and well-being!