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Dental Implants and Implant-Supported Dentures for Missing Teeth

Dental implants, which are surgically-implanted replacements for tooth roots, can dramatically improve someone’s smile, confidence, and quality of life. Implants mimic the function of real teeth and are permanent, durable, and fixed. The titanium implant fixture fuses to the natural bone in one’s jaw through a process called osseointegration and stops bone loss that would occur if the socket was left empty.

Dental Implant Cross SectionImplants have three parts: the implant fixture, the abutment, and the prosthetic. The implant fixture looks like a screw and descends into the gum line and fuses to bone. The abutment holds the prosthetic place. Finally, the prosthetic is placed on top. The prosthetic is the part that looks like a natural tooth. It can be a crown (single tooth), a bridge (several teeth), or a denture (full arch).

Dental implants are placed by a specially-trained dentist (which can include restorative dentists, oral surgeon, and periodontists) through an easy-to-understand, five-step process.

  1. Soft gum tissue is peeled back to expose the sedated patient’s jaw bone.
  2. The bone is drilled at varying speeds to create a hole (or osteotomy).
  3. The dentist places the titanium implant fixture in the osteotomy with a special tool called a torque-controlled wrench.
  4. The gums are rearranged around the implant fixture and a healing cap is installed on the implant fixture so the patient’s gums can heal.
  5. A restorative dentist then places a temporary prosthetic and the patient’s smile is restored. A permanent prosthetic is placed at a later appointment.

Implant-Supported Dentures

In the last decade, dentists have developed a technique that can completely restore an edentulous (or toothless) patient’s smile. This procedure utilizes four implants for a full arch replacement. Two implants are placed vertically near the midline of a patient’s gums and two implants are placed in the back of the patient’s mouth at an angle to utilize as much of the bone as possible for support. These implants support a fixed denture of 12-14 teeth that gives the patient a brand new smile. If both the top and bottom arches are replaced, eight implants are needed.

First, any teeth in the patient’s mouth are extracted. Then, the implant-trained dentist will place the four implants. A restorative dentist will place a temporary denture on the same day, giving the patient a beautiful, full arch of teeth. After the implants osseointegrate (fuse with the bone) and heal, the patient’s restorative dentist will place the final fixed prosthesis (denture), which typically lasts for the rest of the patient’s life.

How it works how it looks

This procedure is revolutionary because it requires no bone grafting; it utilizes the maximum amount of existing bone with the angled, back implants. The treatment is also significantly less expensive than normal implant-supported bridges because it uses four implants instead of the usual six. The treatment has a 97% success rate on the top arch and a 98% success rate on the bottom arch. Furthermore, four-implant-supported dentures prevent further bone loss (unlike normal dentures) and usually enable the patient to have a new smile on the same day as the extractions and implant placements.

Best of all, implant-supported dentures are secure in the mouth. They don’t flap or slip like normal dentures can. That makes it easier to speak and to eat.

Ask your dentist today whether four-over-four implant-supported dentures is the right option for you.

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