The term dental implant refers to the implant post or screw that is surgically placed in the jaw to replace the root of a missing tooth. These fixtures are used to support a wide range of dental restorations, from a crown to replace a single tooth to full, fixed prostheses. Read on to learn more about the different types of dental implant restorations.
Single-Tooth Dental Implants
Single-tooth dental implants, also known as implant-supported crowns or single dental implants, are the closest match for your natural tooth. The implant fixture replaces the missing root and a dental crown restores the tooth above the gum line. An implant-supported crown is used when only one tooth needs to be replaced with a dental implant or when many teeth need to be replaced, but are not close to each other. Although it’s not common, some patients may also choose to replace a span of adjacent teeth with single-tooth dental implants rather than a bridge or denture for a look and feel that more closely resembles natural teeth.
If you have three or more adjacent teeth that need to be replaced, an implant-supported bridge is a more cost-effective option than replacing each tooth with its own dental implant and crown. Two dental implant fixtures are typically used to replace the two outermost missing teeth, and these implants support a porcelain bridge of prosthetic teeth, or pontics.
Implant-supported bridges are often recommended over traditional dental bridges because the implant-supported variety prevent bone loss in the jaw, which means a stronger, more stable restoration. Furthermore, unlike traditional bridges, implant-supported bridges do not need support from neighboring teeth, which places stress on the supporting teeth and leaves them vulnerable to damage. Implant-supported bridges are self-supporting.
Implant-supported dentures can be full or partial, and are anchored in place by dental implants. Snap-in dentures get their name from the fact that they can be taken out and put back in by the patient. Implant-supported dentures are more natural-feeling than traditional dentures because they provide significantly more stability. You can eat and speak normally, without worrying that your denture will become loose or fall out.
These dentures never slip or rub against the gum tissue because they are held in place with dental implants, which means there are no painful sores or irritation. By restoring the roots of missing teeth, implant-supported dentures prevent bone loss in the jaw, which means you’ll have a stronger bite and a more youthful appearance.
Implant-Supported Fixed Complete Prostheses
If you need to replace all of the teeth on the upper or lower arch, this type of restoration is worth considering. A complete arch of fixed replacement teeth is supported by four or more strategically-placed implant fixtures. Many patients who aren't candidates for traditional implant-supported dentures benefit from an implant-supported fixed complete prosthesis, which doesn’t require the same level of jawbone support and can be completed in a single day. This form of prosthesis is fixed, unlike implant-supported dentures, and can only be removed by a dentist.