Dental implants are titanium tooth roots that firmly attach porcelain or acrylic teeth to the jaw

Dental implants, also thought of as artificial tooth roots, serve as anchors for the fabricated teeth to be firmly attached in the jaw. Implants are used to replace all or some of the missing teeth in the mouth. Most dental implants are made from pure titanium; we only use titanium in our dental implants office. Its strength and biocompatibility makes it a valuable metal that is often used with heart pacemakers. This aside, a dental implant could still develop an infection around it if it is not taken care of similarly to a natural tooth.

One factor that needs to be taken into consideration for successful implant placement is the amount of bone (length, width and depth) available in different areas within the jaw bones. Anatomical variations may be due to osteoporosis, traumatic loss of a tooth (or teeth), infection around a tooth that destroys jaw bone, protracted cigarette smoking, or the presence of normal anatomic landmarks, like nasal sinuses and facial nerves, that inhabit the involved areas. Thus, the patient’s individual anatomy greatly determines the amount of bone available for dental implants.

To better understand how implants function, the jawbone could be considered as a piece of wood and the dental implant as a screw. The length, width and depth of the wood are important in order for it to hold a screw of a given size without fracturing during insertion. For example, a longer and wider screw in dense wood will hold better than a shorter, narrower screw will in soft wood. While the upper jaw may be generally be considered to be a soft wood like balsa, the lower jaw may be considered to be a hard wood like oak. Thus, with all other factors being equal, the prognosis of implants in the lower jaw will often exceed those of the upper jaw.

The most frequently used type of implant is an implant screw which is built in two pieces:
1)      The first piece is about 10 millimeters long with internal female screw threading at its top.
2)      The second piece is about 5 millimeters long with male external screw threading at its bottom.

The first piece of the dental implant screw is placed in the jawbone. This is left to heal under the gum for three to six months. During this time it is neither seen, nor disturbed. When three to six months have passed, minimal surgery is performed to open the gum, and the second piece of the implant is screwed into the first. The gum is then sewn back into place with the second piece of the implant protruding through the gum. Finally, a crown, or cap, is made to cement onto it. As previously mentioned, this type of implant technique is the most common. However, there are various other types of dental implants. Some other dental implants are also inserted into the bone, as previously described, but have different shapes. Other types of dental implants sit on top of the bone (not in it) but under the gum, while a few types of dental implants are only placed in the gum tissue (not the bone).

It is very important for patients to seek dental implant care from a premium implant dentist with the critical skills and experience needed to successfully implement the various types of dental implants. Some dentists learn only one technique over a weekend course and then begin offering their services in implant dentistry.

A complex interaction exists between the functional and cosmetic needs of each individual patient and the type of implant chosen. Available bone, the quality and quantity of remaining teeth, medical health, treatment time, emotional temperament, and finances all play important roles in fulfilling those needs.

The various treatment options available for patients seeking dental implants are best discussed in the office on an individualized basis.

–Dr. Jeffrey Dorfman, Director
The Center for Special Dentistry