When people talk about dental implants, they often use the term as a catch-all for a variety of different procedures. Technically speaking, the term “dental implant” really only refers to the post that is placed in the jawbone to support restorations; the restorations available for dental implants range from crowns to full sets of dentures. Below, we discuss the different types of dental implants and restorations.
Single-Tooth Dental Implants
Single-tooth dental implants are the closest restoration to a natural tooth in terms of function, feel, and appearance. A single dental implant is used to support a single dental crown, with the two pieces connected by an abutment. With a carefully designed crown that blends in seamlessly with the rest of your smile, no one will ever suspect that you have a dental implant!
When three or more adjacent teeth are missing or need to be extracted and replaced, implant-supported bridges are often recommended. For this type of restoration, only the outermost missing roots are replaced with dental implants, which is a more cost-effective solution than replacing each individual missing tooth with its own implant. The two implants are used to support an arch of prosthetic teeth, or pontics.
Implant-supported bridges are a great alternative to traditional bridges because they are sturdy and long-lasting. To support a traditional bridge, healthy teeth on each side of your missing teeth must be cut down so crowns can be placed. This can put their health at risk, leaving them more prone to fractures and deterioration. Because implant-supported bridges are self-supporting, they have no effect on adjacent teeth.
There are a number of different implant-supported denture options, including full or partial dentures that are fixed or removable. Dentures that are supported by implants are more comfortable to wear and often more natural-looking; they don’t rock, slip, or cause painful sores in the mouth. Unlike traditional dentures, implant-supported dentures also prevent jaw bone loss, resulting in a stronger bite and more youthful appearance.
Full Arch With Only Four Implants
With this restoration, we replace a full upper or lower arch of teeth with just four dental implants for support. This restoration, unlike implant-supported dentures, is fixed and cannot be removed for cleaning like snap-on dentures. Patients who are not candidates for traditional dental implants without bone grafting or a sinus lift may be eligible for this procedure.
Mini Dental Implants
Because mini dental implants (MDIs) are smaller than conventional dental implants, they require less support from the jawbone. This means that if you've experienced bone loss in the jaw, mini dental implants may be a viable treatment option even if you're not a candidate for traditional implants. MDIs may also be recommended for patients who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for surgical complications, as they can be completed in a single office visit.