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What are dental implants?

Last Updated: 10.01.2024

Author: George Ghidrai, MD  

Dental implants are metal devices surgically inserted into the jawbone to replace one or more missing teeth. Dental implants typically support a dental prosthesis such as a crown, bridge, or removable dentures, but sometimes, they may act as an orthodontic anchor (to align and straighten teeth).

dental implant

First, a surgical procedure is required to place the dental implant inside the jawbone. The basis for modern dental implants is a biological process called osseointegration, where materials such as titanium form an intimate bond to the bone. Osseointegration requires a variable amount of healing time (usually 3 to 6 months).

After the healing time, an abutment is attached to the implant. The abutment will hold the dental prosthesis (crown, bridge, removable denture).

dental implant structure


Dental implantology is a set of surgical techniques aiming at the functional rehabilitation of a patient affected by total or partial edentulism by using dental implants.

What is Edentulism?

  • Edentulism is a medical condition characterized by the absence of one or more teeth. This medical condition is caused by loss of teeth.

Dental implantology is a relatively new dental subspecialty (the primary specialty is oral and maxillofacial surgery).

In later years, because of the ever-increasing demand for dental implants, implantology experienced a spectacular development:

  • new surgical techniques appeared,
  • new materials were developed,
  • new rehabilitation methods were devised,

all aimed at increasing the quality and success rate of dental implants.

For these reasons, techniques and solutions differ from one practitioner to another and from one region or country to another.

dental implantology

implant-supported dental bridge

Why is it so important to replace missing teeth?

Following teeth loss, several toothless spaces appear inside the oral cavity. These are called edentulous spaces or toothless gaps.

toothless gap or edentulous space

single tooth gap

several teeth edentulous space

several teeth gap

If toothless gaps are not rehabilitated in time (with a dental restoration), irreversible changes may occur around these areas, adversely affecting oral health.

Let's review some of the changes that may occur following a tooth extraction.

post-extraction teeth migration

  • Opposite teeth, marked with a, migrate towards the extraction site (overeruption). The process occurs until the tooth reaches the opposite gum (called the edentulous ridge) or another obstacle located on the path.

  • Adjacent teeth, marked with v, lean toward the edentulous space in an attempt "to close the gap."

Teeth migration stops when the toothless gap is restored with a dental prosthesis.

Teeth migration can disrupt the most important oral processes: mastication, aesthetics, and phonation. Moreover, migrated teeth can suffer from periodontal diseases or cavities.

The space required for manufacturing the reconstruction will gradually diminish and eventually disappear altogether. Any prosthesis, including implant-supported dentures, needs adequate room for artificial teeth to be shaped appropriately.

missing teeth consequences: toothless gap shrinkage

a case of over-eruption that leads to the
vertical shrinkage of the toothless gap

If the required space diminishes because of teeth migration, preliminary operations (most often complicated and expensive) are needed before the design of the prosthetic restoration can actually begin.


!!!After teeth extractions, it is essential to restore the toothless gaps as soon as possible. As you will see, dental implants offer superior therapeutic solutions compared to traditional restorations (such as dental bridges or removable dentures supported by natural teeth).

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