Types of Dental Implant Procedures
Dental implants are structures meant to take the place of a missing tooth, restoring function and improving the aesthetics of your smile. There are many types of dental implants available. Most involve a titanium screw in the jawbone, which is used to anchor an artificial tooth (or ‘crown’) into the gap created by a missing tooth. Beyond this, there are several variations. If you are considering getting a dental implant to replace a missing tooth, explore your options so that you can make an informed decision about the best dental implant for your situation.
The term ‘dental implant’ actually refers only to the piece anchored to the bone. This is usually capped with a crown, artificial tooth, or bridge, in order to provide a natural appearance. Root form implants are the most common type of implant. These mimic the root of a natural tooth, and are also known as a cylindrical or screw type implant. Root form implants consist of a titanium screw that is inserted into a hole drilled in the jaw bone. They provide a strong anchor for the artificial tooth, but require the patient to have adequate jawbone to provide a strong bond.
Once inserted, a root form implant must be left to heal for three to six months to allow for osseointegration, the process by which the titanium screw bonds with the bone. Once healed, an extension or abutment is placed over the screw, allowing the dentist to attach your artificial tooth.
Plate Form implants, the second major type of dental implant, are usually recommended when the patient’s jaw bone is not suitable for root form implants. This long, flat implant is set into the narrow jawbone. Depending on its design, it may be ready for immediate placement of the artificial tooth, or a healing period may be required for osseointegration.
A third type of dental implant, known as subperiosteal implants, may be recommended if there is not enough jawbone for either of the above implant types. These are designed to sit underneath the gums, but directly on top of the bone, rather than the root form or plate form implants which are inserted into the bone itself.
There are two methods of implanting a subperiosteal implant. During the ‘dual surgery’ method, the dentist will first expose the jawbone and take an impression of the bone. Then, a dental lab creates a custom implant to fit the jawbone, which is necessary to form a strong anchor for the tooth. During a second surgery, the jawbone is again exposed, and the implant is placed over the bone. Then, the gums are closed with sutures. The artificial teeth may be put into place immediately, or the dentist may wait until the implant has fused with the bone.
The ‘single surgery’ method of placing subperiosteal implants avoids the need for a mold of the jawbone. Instead, the dentist orders a CAT scan of your jawbone. Using this data along with computer modeling, a model of your jawbone can be made, and the implant can be fabricated. The surgery needed to insert this implant is much the same as the second stage of the two-stage process.