logo image

What are dental implants ?

author icon By Dr. George Ghidrai

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).

dental implant dental implant dental implant

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).

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

dental implant general 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.

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.

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 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.

post-extraction teeth migration post-extraction teeth migration post-extraction teeth migration

  • 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.

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 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

Top articles

Dental Implants, the Complete Patient's Guide

Today, dental implants are the state-of-the-art tooth replacement systems and are now more common than ever before. This comprehensive guide deals with all the important aspects of implant dentistry ...more

15 Common Tongue Diseases that Can Affect You

Because we use our tongue constantly, it can be frustrating and uncomfortable when we experience tongue problems. Learn about the different types of tongue problems, possible causes and how to deal with them ...more

Mouth Cancer. How to Deal with a Life-Threatening Disease

Mouth cancer is a serious condition that can be life threatening. The good news is that if oral cancer is caught early, there is a very high chance of curing it. Learn about the early signs of mouth cancer and what are the best ways to prevent or treat this disease ...more