Prosthodontics and Missing Teeth
Prosthodontics is a title that pertains to dentists who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment planning, restoration and replacement of teeth. Their focus consists of, but is not limited to crowns, dentures and cosmetic implants. Prosthodontists have obtained a higher level of education and have pursued three or more years of extensive state-of-the-art training after their dental school completion.
While other tooth replacement methods are still in use today, dental implants are the gold standard for a reason. Dentures are designed to stay in place with suction or by attaching to your remaining teeth with clasps. While they may fit perfectly when you first receive them, the natural bone loss that occurs with missing teeth can make them lose their fit over time, causing patients to experience embarrassing slippage on a regular basis. Bridges are another common tooth replacement option, but they require the reduction of healthy tooth structure for crown replacement. Implants do not pose any of these issues. Because your new restorations are permanently anchored into your mouth, you can enjoy speaking and eating without worrying about your teeth slipping out of place. In addition to helping you maintain the healthy structure of your remaining teeth, they look and feel just like your natural teeth and stimulate your jawbone to help preserve a youthful facial appearance.
How Dental Implants Work
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is usually constructed from titanium, a biocompatible material that has been used for decades in hip and knee replacement surgeries. The implant is inserted into the jawbone, and the bone fuses with its rough surface in a process called "osseointegration." Once the artificial tooth root is anchored into the jawbone, a tooth restoration is attached to the abutment, which is the part of the implant that extends from the top of the gums. Implants can be used to replace one or more teeth:
- Single Tooth - In this simple procedure, a single implant is placed at the site of a lost tooth and is affixed with a porcelain crown.
- Implant Bridge - A traditional bridge is attached by placing crowns on the healthy teeth on either side of the empty tooth sockets, but an implant bridge uses two or more titanium implants to anchor the restoration in place.
- Implant Dentures. - In cases where several or all teeth are missing, a few strategically-placed titanium implants can hold a full or partial denture in place.
The Dental Implant Procedure
Placing dental implants is a two-step procedure:
- Implant Placement - This part of the process usually only requires local anesthesia, but your dentist can administer something a bit stronger if a patient feels anxious. Once the patient is comfortable, a dentist will create an opening in the gum tissues at the site of the missing tooth and then insert the small titanium rod into the jawbone. The dentist will then close the gum tissues with a few sutures. The gums will heal in about a week, but you must wait several months for osseointegration of the implant to take place. You may be fitted with a temporary tooth restoration to wear while you are waiting.
- Placing Restorations - When the implants are ready for permanent restorations, the dentist will take impressions of the mouth to create replacement teeth that blend with your natural teeth. The patient then returns to have the restorations permanently affixed to the implant abutments.