What Are Dental Implants and How Do They Work?
Updated: Apr 3, 2019
Dental implants are becoming the restoration of choice to replace missing teeth. But why have they become so popular? Are they reliable? Who is a good candidate for dental implants? Here is everything you need to know about dental implants.
What are dental implants made of?
For a thousand years, people have tried replacing missing teeth by attaching something to the bone of the jaw, including shells, stone carvings, animal bones, and metal screws. Unfortunately, very few substances are compatible and not rejected by the body’s immune system, and very few of these experiments were successful.
It was not until the middle of the twentieth century when biocompatible metals were discovered that dental implants were being predictably and successfully placed. These early implants were held in place purely by screws or wedging into slots in bone but often became loose or dislodged.
In 1952, a Swedish anatomist named P.I. Brånemark discovered that titanium metal was not only compatible with the body but in fact fused to bone when it healed; a process he called osseointegration. He went on to create what we now recognize as the modern dental implant, with titanium becoming the standard material used.
Types of dental implants
Dental implants can be divided into two major categories; endosteal, which are anchored inside the bone, and subperiosteal, which sit on top of the bone of the jaw.
The most common form of dental implant used today is the endosteal implant. Endosteal basically means “in the bone”, with these type of implants being placed directly into the bone of the upper or lower jaw. The most common form of endosteal implant is shaped like a post, mimicking a natural tooth root. By using biocompatible and often osseointegrating materials, these types of dental implant have proven to have a very high rate of success and can last a lifetime.
A subperiosteal implant is a metal framework that is surgically placed under the gums directly on the bone of your jaw. The framework has several attachment points that protrude up through your gums and allow a dental bridge to be attached.
With modern imaging techniques, there are few cases where subperiosteal implants are used today, but might be a valid option if there is not enough bone in the jaw to support an endosteal implant and grafting is not a workable option.
The procedure requires one surgery to take an impression of the jaw bone and a second surgery to place the framework once it is created. The failure rate of subperiosteal implants tend to be much higher than endosteal implants.
How do dental implants work?
Dental implants are surgically placed posts which anchor into the bone of the jaw, allowing dental crowns or bridges to be solidly attached to them and avoiding the movement and decreased chewing ability common with conventional dentures. The titanium implants actually integrate and fuse to the bone itself, and normally will last a lifetime. The restorations placed on the implants look great, feel natural, and function like real teeth.
Pros & cons of dental implants
Dental implants are considered the most reliable and natural feeling way of replacing missing teeth. They provide essentially the same chewing ability as natural teeth and also maintain the bone in the jaw, which normally degrades over time with no teeth present. They look and feel like natural teeth and remain permanently in the mouth, as opposed to teeth you have to remove and put in a cup at night. Under normal circumstances, dental implants last for a lifetime.
That said, there are negatives to dental implants as well. Using traditional methods, dental implants usually require multiple surgical procedures and a lot of healing time between them. One surgery is required to remove teeth, months are needed to heal, another surgery is needed to place the implants, more time is needed to heal, and finally, after much waiting, permanent teeth may be placed.
Additionally, if there is not enough bone or the bone is soft, bone grafting procedures may be necessary. If the sinus cavities are too low, a procedure called a sinus lift may be required to create space for the implant.
Another negative to dental implants is the cost. On a national average, a single tooth implant may cost $1000-$3000, depending on the difficulty of placement. In addition, a crown is required on top of the implant itself, which adds an additional $1000-$3000. That’s $2000- $6000 per tooth. Which leads us to the question:
Can you replace all teeth with dental implants?
Obviously, replacing each and every tooth in your mouth with individual dental implants could get very expensive, but fortunately, there are alternatives to replacing each tooth individually.
Dentists created a method to utilize just 4-6 implants and attach a bridge, a series of connected dental crowns, to create an entire arch of teeth. This considerably reduces the number of implants necessary. This All-On-Four technique has become a standard procedure but still has its drawbacks, mainly that it still requires multiple surgeries and long healing times before final restorations can be placed.
An alternative to the All-On-Four technique has been developed in recent years, however. The G4 Implant Solution, developed by Dr. Mike Golpa, improves on the All-On-Four method by allowing a full upper and/or lower set of teeth to be replaced in just one 24 hour period.
Golpa Implant Centers, found in multiple cities across the US, utilize a custom milled titanium framework created by their in-house laboratories and beautiful, permanent full arch bridges delivered the day after surgery. We are the only facility in the world providing this ground-breaking treatment technique and are today recognized as the new standard in dental implant care.