People who have lost teeth often are too self-conscious to smile or talk confidently. They can develop poor eating habits when food is difficult to chew which often leads to secondary health problems. Dental implants provide individuals with a complete restoration option for missing teeth. Dental implants aren’t just dentures, they should provide a complete tooth replacement acting as artificial roots to support full function and to stop or prevent jawbone loss.
By replacing missing tooth roots, these types of dental implants provide people with the strength and stability required to eat all the foods they love, without struggling to chew. Additionally, these types help stimulate and maintain jawbone, preventing bone loss and helping to support facial features.
Different Types of Dental Implants
With each type of dental implant, there are different coating, connector, and size options that your Prosthodontists will choose from. While there are several methods to placing implants, the different types typically fall into one of two categories.
Endosteal (Endosseous) Implants: Endosteal is the most commonly used type of dental implant. They are sometimes used as an alternative to a bridge or removable denture. Endosteal implants include screw types (threaded), cylinder types (smooth) or bladed types. Your prosthodontist can help determine which type of dental implant will work best for you, but endosteal implants are safe, effective and the most popular choice used today.
- Treatment: Endosteal implants begin by first drilling into the jawbone to insert a titanium screw that acts as an artificial root. Before you can finish the treatment, you must wait for the soft tissue and bone to heal around the root. This can often be a couple of months.
- Stability: Endosteal implants are well known for having one of the most stable, natural-feeling results.
An endosteal implant starts by screwing the implant into the jawbone, which requires sufficient jawbone health and density. If you have a narrow jawbone ridge naturally or one that is short or narrowed and worn down due to trauma or disease, you might not have enough bone needed to properly support an endosteal implant. In this case, a subperiosteal implant may be an option.
Subperiosteal Implants: Subperiosteal are rarely used today. They were once primarily used to hold dentures in place in patients with insufficient bone height. When subperiosteal implants are used, they are placed on the jawbone within the gum tissue, with the metal implant post exposed through the gums to hold the denture.
- Treatment: With subperiosteal implants, the overall treatment process is done in two appointments and is often a far shorter treatment plan than with an endosteal implant.
- Stability: Subperiosteal implants don’t have the same level of stability since the implant doesn’t go into the jawbone but rather rests on top of the bone and is held in place by only soft tissue. This still gives more support than dentures without implants but is still less stable than a full endosteal implant system.
Dental Implant Coatings, Connectors and Sizes
More than 60 companies manufacture types of dental implants and/or the materials used to create them. As a result, dentists have many options for identifying the right treatment for specific patient needs.
Coatings: There are several different coating types or surface treatments your implants can have. While the actual implant will most likely be made of titanium, the outer surface can vary.
- Why do I want a coating? By increasing the surface roughness, the implant can heal seamlessly and become stronger than ever before. A porous surface contributes to more bone contact than a machined titanium surface.
- Types of Dental Implant Coatings Available: Possible surfaces include a grit-blasted or acid-etched and roughened surface, a microgroove or plasma-sprayed titanium surface, a plasma-sprayed hydroxyapatite coating, or Zirconia. While Zirconia is a metal, it is a transition metal. It’s typically very white and ceramic like in its appearance unlike titanium and many other colored metals.
Dental Implant Connectors: All types of dental implants require the screw or implant to be in the jaw and be attached to the abutment (or connector for the fake tooth) on top. There are three main connector types:
- Internal Hex Connectors: Shaped like a hexagon, an internal hex connector is an opening in the implant head into which the restoration/abutment is screwed.
- External Hex Connectors: Also shaped like a hexagon, these types of connectors are atop the implant head rather than inside.
- Internal Octagon Connectors: Shaped like an octagon, an internal octagon connector has an opening in the implant head into which the restoration/abutment is screwed.
Sizing Your Dental Implants: Where in the mouth the implant needs to be placed will determine the size of implant that is needed. Because every mouth is different, individual spacing and bone availability needs may dictate the use of different sized implants.
- Standard Platform: Standard dental implants are shorter and narrower to match the size of the teeth at the front of the mouth. They range in size from 3.5 mm to 4.2 mm in diameter.
- Wide Platform: Wide platform dental implants sit in the back and the mouth and range in size from 4.5 mm to 6 mm in diameter and are placed primarily in the back of the mouth.
- Mini or Narrow Body: If you don’t have sufficient space between your existing teeth, your prosthodontist may choose a mini or narrow body implant. These can also be used when the patient has insufficient bone density or as temporary support while larger dental implants are healing.
Different Methods of Dental Implants
There may be implant alternatives that could work well depending on the strength of your jawbone, and your specific situation. These types may be used instead of or in addition to traditional types of dental implants. Common types of dental implant methods include:
Immediate Load Dental Implants (also known as Teeth in a Day): Immediate load implants allow you to walk out of your appointment with a full set of teeth without the delay typically required for healing. The teeth you get initially are temporary until the implant heals and you have the healthy bone contact to support a permanent prosthetic. This can be a great way to get your smile back as soon as possible.
All-on-4 (or 5 or 6): This type is ideal for people who have lost most or all of their teeth due to decay or gum disease. It allows you to place implants without bone grafting by using a set of temporary teeth placed the same day or very soon thereafter.
Single Tooth Implants: This is great for those who have one or a few missing teeth. A single implant can fill in the gap and create a seamless look and perfectly functioning teeth.
Multiple Implants: If you have several missing teeth creating larger gaps, but still don’t need a full mouth replacement, you can use multiple implants in only the areas with large gaps.
Two-Stage Dental Implants: This is the typical process for the types of dental implants described above. The first day involves a surgical procedure to place the implant into the jawbone. Several months later, a minor surgery is performed to attach an abutment and tooth (crown).
Single-Stage Implants: This is similar to two-stage implants, but the implant healing cap remains visible so the abutment and temporary restoration can be attached without the need for surgery to expose the head (top of the implant).
Mini Implants: These are small or narrow diameter implants that may be placed through less-invasive techniques to stabilize a lower denture. Mini implants can prevent the spontaneous “floating” or shifting of a lower denture. The proper position of the top of the mini implant is most important so there is space for your denture! The opportunity to get the replacement teeth right where they belong for your smile should not be lost by mini implants that are too tall or poorly positioned, nor should the denture base holding the teeth be too thin or too thick in critical places!
A Better Smile Is in Your Future
Today’s dental implant restorations are virtually indistinguishable from other teeth. This is partly because of the structural and functional connection between the implant and the living bone and modern technology that makes the teeth match perfectly. If cared for properly, all types of dental implants may remain in place for a lifetime. Your dental implant expert, or Prosthodontist, can help you determine which option is best for you, depending on your particular needs. If you’re looking to get back a fully functioning mouth and want to smile with confidence in the future, give us a call today!