Dental implants are an affordable, durable, and permanent solution for those who have lost one or more adult teeth. They offer a natural look and feel and allow you to eat all the foods you love. Unlike other traditional crowns, bridges, and dentures, dental implants can even help you maintain better oral health by improving the bone density of your jaws and preserving your remaining original teeth and their proper alignment.
But there are several types of dental implants, each used in different situations, so it's important to understand which is right for you. Here we will discuss the three main categories of dental implants: single tooth implants, bridge implants, and All-On-4 implants. Each type of implant is available at See Me Smile Dental in Santa Barbara, CA.
A single-tooth implant is just what it sounds like: it is an implant for those who are missing an individual tooth in an arch. This type of implant may also be referred to as an implant-supported crown. The implant as a whole is comprised of three parts.
First, there is the surgical implant itself, which is a screw that gets anchored into the jaw. You can think of this as the "root" of the implant, much like a natural tooth has. Through a biological process called osseointegration, the jawbone will fuse to this anchor to provide a secure, permanent attachment for your artificial tooth.
While other materials may be used, most implants are made of titanium alloy, the same metal that is commonly used in hip and knee replacements for its particular effectiveness at integrating with bone. The screw shape of the implant provides extra stability and greater surface area for osseointegration.
The second part of the implant is called the abutment. This is simply a connector piece between the implant and the third part, the crown, which is the artificial tooth itself. Your dentist will select the material for the abutment based on different factors, such as the location of the implant in the mouth or ease of blending with the color of the crown. Abutments are made of materials such as titanium alloy, gold alloy, stainless steel, or zirconium; each is useful in various situations.
The crown, the visible part of the implant, is made of zirconium, ceramics, or porcelain fused to a metal alloy. The crown is only placed after the anchor has healed for several months, allowing sufficient time for the titanium and bone to integrate. These crowns have a natural look and feel, and with proper oral hygiene and regular preventive care, an implant-supported crown can last a lifetime.
There are two main techniques for single tooth implants: endosteal and subperiosteal. The endosteal is the most frequently used procedure and involves inserting the implant under the gum and into the jaw in order to integrate with the jawbone, as described above.
A subperiosteal implant is done with a metal frame placed under the gum but over top of the jawbone as an anchor for the crown, rather than integrating with the jaw. This type of implant is reserved for those with weak or shallow jaws that would not be able to withstand the drilling required for an endosteal implant.
Bridges are not new in dentistry, but with modern implant technology, they have become a long-lasting, comfortable solution for those who are missing multiple teeth in a row.
Traditional bridges use dental cement and are anchored to the existing natural teeth on either side of the gap formed by the missing teeth. This process is imperfect, involving grinding down the healthy anchor teeth to affix the cement, as well as the possibility of the cement wearing away or the anchor teeth moving out of alignment, disrupting the placement of the bridge.
Bridge implants resolve these issues by attaching to the jawbone with the same mechanism as a single tooth implant. However, instead of using individual anchor screws for each tooth, the bridge implant uses two anchored artificial teeth, called retainer crowns, on each end of the bridge, with one or more unanchored crowns, called pontics, in between.
The entire bridge is one piece and is supported and secured by just two implants without requiring any damage to the adjacent healthy teeth. As with any implant, the metal anchors will become integrated with the jawbone, providing a permanent solution that mimics normal chewing forces, increases bone strength, and restores the aesthetic appearance of natural teeth for those missing multiple teeth in a row.
All-On-4 implants are the next step beyond a bridge implant, used when a patient is missing several or all of their teeth in a single arch. Unlike a removable denture, All-On-4 implants offer a permanent, non-removable replacement to an entire arch of teeth.
The titanium screws of an individual anchor are able to support multiple teeth, as demonstrated with bridge implants. Rather than placing lots of individual implants in a row, tying multiple artificial teeth to a single anchor provides more stability and structure, while minimizing the extent of the surgery and recovery required for the patient.
In the case of All-On-4 implants, just four anchors distributed around the jaw can support an entire arch of artificial teeth. While the front two anchors are placed vertically, as with the single or bridge implant, the dentist inserts the anchors at the back of the jaw at an angle. By angling the rear two implants, the All-On-4 technique makes the most of the existing strength of the jawbone for maximum stability and a reduced need for bone grafting.
A full-arch, All-On-4 implant will improve bone density and maintain facial structure in a way that removable dentures cannot, by providing a more physiologically correct chewing motion and promoting bone growth as the implant fuses with the jawbone. They are a lifetime solution that will help you maintain your oral health, your appearance, and even your speech.
While the implant procedure can sound daunting, rest assured that dental implants are well tolerated and have an extremely high success rate. At See Me Smile Dental in Santa Barbara, CA, we are committed to taking you through the entire process with the greatest possible ease and comfort with our detailed consultations and range of sedation options. Whether a single-tooth implant, a bridge, or an All-On-4, with proper care, your implants will be a lifetime investment in your oral health and appearance.
Are you in the Santa Barbara, CA area and ready to get back to a full, healthy smile? Now that you know all about the different types of implants, you're ready to talk to your dentist at See Me Smile Dental about the implant process. We're here to help you achieve your oral health goals with the implant solution that is right for you.
Get in touch with us today at (805) 284-0826 to book a consultation and start your journey to a healthier smile with dental implants from See Me Smile Dental.