What are dental implants ?
Dental implants are metal devices that are surgically inserted into the jawbone in order to replace one or more missing teeth. Normally, dental implants support a dental prosthesis such as a crown, bridge, removable dentures but sometimes they may act as an orthodontic anchor (in order to align and straighten teeth).
First, a surgical procedure is required to place the dental implant inside the jawbone. The basis for modern dental implants is a biologic process called osseointegration where materials, such as titanium, form an intimate bond to bone. A variable amount of healing time is required for osseointegration (3 to 6 months).
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.
Dental implantology is a relatively new dental sub-speciality (the main speciality is oral and maxillofacial surgery).
In later years, because of the ever-increasing demand for dental implants, implantology has experienced a spectacular development : new surgical techniques appear, new materials are developed and new rehabilitation methods are devised, all aimed at increasing the quality and success rate of dental implants.
For these reasons, techniques and solutions may be largely different from one practitioner to another and from one region or country to another.
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.
single tooth gap
several teeth gap
If toothless gaps are not rehabilitated in time (with a dental restoration), irreversible changes may take place around these areas with an adverse effect on oral health.
Let's take a look at some of the changes that may occur following a tooth extraction.
Opposite teeth, marked with a, migrate towards the extraction site (over-eruption). The process occurs until the tooth reaches the opposite gum (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".
When the toothless gap is restored with a dental prosthesis, teeth migration stops.
Teeth migration can lead to the disruption of 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 so that artificial teeth can be properly shaped.
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 required 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 in this chapter, dental implants offer superior therapeutic solutions compared to traditional restorations (bridges or removable dentures supported by natural teeth).
Last review and update: February 2019