If you are missing a single tooth, one implant and a crown can replace it. A dental implant replaces both the lost natural tooth and its root.
By replacing one single tooth and avoiding the conventional bridge approach, the adjacent teeth are preserved. Dental implants come in various sizes of length and width. Since molars typically do most of the work during chewing, using an implant of maximum size is always preferred. By determining the exact jaw dimensions prior to implant surgery, the implant team is able to decide on just the right implant for the tooth to be replaced. Dental CT scan technology is used to plan the implant surgery in a precise manner by using computer-assisted planning software.
A connector – known as an abutment (B) – is placed on top of the dental implant to hold and support your crowns. The crowns are custom-made to match your natural teeth and fit your mouth (C).
Modern dental implants have been used successfully for over 30 years. They are the strongest devices available to support replacement teeth – and even better, they allow these new teeth to feel, look and function naturally. When performed by a trained and experienced dental implant dentist, dental implant surgery is one of the safest and most predictable procedures in dentistry.
A dental implant provides several advantages over other tooth replacement options. In addition to looking and functioning like a natural tooth, a dental implant replaces a single tooth without sacrificing the health of neighboring teeth. The other common treatment for the loss of a single tooth, a tooth-supported fixed bridge, requires that adjacent teeth be ground down to support the cemented bridge.
Because a dental implant will replace your tooth root, the bone is better preserved. With a bridge, some of the bone that previously surrounded the tooth begins to resorb (deteriorate). Dental implants integrate with your jawbone, helping to keep the bone healthy and intact.
In the long term, a single implant can be more esthetic and easier to keep clean than a bridge. Gums can recede around a bridge, leaving a visible defect when the metal base or collar of the bridge becomes exposed. Resorbed bone beneath the bridge can lead to an unattractive smile. And, the cement holding the bridge in place can wash out, allowing bacteria to decay the teeth that anchor the bridge.
The time between surgical implant placement and final crown placement is typically shorter on the lower jaw than it is on the upper jaw. This is a result of denser bone in the lower jaw, which allows for faster fusing (osseointegration) of the bone with the implant's outer surface. Lower implant restorations can be completed in less than 10 weeks from surgical implant placement, as compared to at least 16 weeks for an upper back tooth.
If the teeth being replaced need to be removed, their extraction may be completed at the same time as the dental implant placement. This "one-stage" protocol can be followed when the tooth to be replaced has a single root and is not infected. Molars have at least two roots and usually require a "two-phase" treatment sequence. The two-phase sequence requires that the remaining roots are removed first and bone filled (grafted). The bone graft is allowed to heal for up to 12 weeks before the implant is surgically inserted in the second phase.