A dental implant pertains to the small titanium screw inserted into the jawbone and particularly on the area left by a missing tooth. It acts as an artificial tooth root upon which a laboratory-fabricated crown is attached. Implants fuse or integrate to the jawbone allowing them to provide extremely stable support for the replacement tooth. Dentures and bridges may also be attached to dental implants so they won’t slip or shift in the patient’s mouth during function. It may likewise be used as an orthodontic anchor in patients who have braces.
This technique relies on a process called osseointegration or bone connection. This mechanism pertains to the formation of living bone tissue that surrounds the surface of the dental implant for increased stability.
Among the tooth replacement options available today, dental implants are considered to be the best because they provide the most natural look and feel. At the moment, the two main types of dental implants are endosteal and supraperiosteal. Classification may also be based on size, form and whether the implant is a one-stage or two-stage system.
Endosteal implant is the most common type of dental implant and it is implanted directly into the patient’s jawbone. Once the implant is in place, the gum tissue is allowed to heal for a few weeks before a post is connected to it. The post serves as the attachment for the tooth or teeth replacement. After the post, a crown, bridge or denture is then finally put over the implant through the post. An endosteal implant may come in various shapes like a screw, plate or cylinder.
Subperiosteal implants require the use of a metal frame to which posts are attached. The frame is placed over the jawbone just below the gum tissue. As the gum tissue heals, the frame fuses and becomes fixed to the jawbone. Finally, as with endosteal implants, the crown, bridge or denture is attached to the post. Subperiosteal implants are for patients who do not have enough remaining bone but are unwilling to undergo a procedure to increase it.
Dental implants may involve one or two phases of surgery. In two-stage implant systems, the first phase of surgery is when the implant is placed into the bone and left to fuse with it. The implant is covered with gum tissue and no part of it is left protruding from the bone. In the second phase of surgery, which is performed months after the first one, the implant is exposed and a post is attached to it. After another month, the crown, bridge or denture will finally be placed on top of the implant. In one-stage implant system, the implant is put in the same manner as the two-stage system but the tip is left protruding from the gum tissue.
Root form implant is the most commonly used form of implant. There are more than 10 subtypes of this implant and they all made with titanium and have different surface texture and shapes. There is no evidence to suggest that any one of these subtypes is better than the others. Meanwhile, zygoma implants are the longer version of root type implants. They are used to retain an upper denture in patients without enough of a jawbone to support the more traditional implant. It passes through the maxillary sinus to anchor itself into the cheekbone. The use of zygoma implants does not offer any advantage over bone grafting as far as functionality is concerned. However, they are said to be a less invasive alternative.
Dental implants can also be classified according to size of standard, mini and micro-mini implants. The last two are pretty much like their traditional counterpart except they have a smaller diameter. Micro-mini implants look more like a screw and have a much smaller diameter than traditional or mini-implants. The small size facilitates easy removal and this type of implant is therefore indicated for a more temporary use.
The success or failure of a dental implant depends on the general health of the patient as well as the health of the oral tissues. To be a good candidate for dental implants, the patient has to have good oral hygiene. Ideally, the gums must be healthy and there should be enough remaining bone to support the implant. Once the dental implant is in place, the patient must commit to more meticulous oral hygiene practices or the whole thing will fail. Aside from self-performed oral hygiene measures, it is also extremely important to make regular dental visits.