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By Dr. Rob Gausmann, DDS  – Printed September 21, 2015

Q. What are dental implants and how do they compare to other ways of replacing missing teeth?

A.  One of the primary goals in dentistry and oral health is to retain all permanent teeth.  This goal is often achieved through proper preventative dental care and maintenance. However, there are instances when it becomes necessary to replace a tooth, such as after an extraction or in areas where a permanent tooth did not develop. There are multiple solutions to replacing missing teeth, but this article will focus on implants and their advantages.

Implant Structure

“Implant” is a term generally used to describe what replaces the missing tooth.  However, the implant is only one of several pieces that attach together to fill the missing space. Although implants can vary slightly in physical construction, the components generally consist of the implant, the abutment and the final restoration. 

The implant is the supporting portion for the replacement “tooth”. This is a small post or rod placed into the bone on which the rest of the components are attached and rely on for stability. The implant portion is similar to the natural root of a tooth and is located below the gum tissue. After placement, the surrounding bone will fuse to the implant to make it stable. The implant is hollow with threads on the inside surface. This allows for the next component – the abutment – to be placed inside the implant. The abutment is tightened on the internal threads and is located above the gum tissue. The shape and size of the abutment is determined by how the space will be permanently filled. One type of abutment would be used if a single crown is placed, while a completely different shape would be used for attaching a denture.

Benefits of an Implant

Implants have several advantages over other methods of tooth replacement. One major advantage is longevity. The components mentioned above are synthetic materials and pose no risk for getting a cavity. Implants are permanently placed and cannot come out – just like a natural tooth.

Other methods of replacement, such as partial or complete dentures, require removal for cleaning. Implants that replace a single tooth, have the additional advantage in the ease of keeping the gums clean, especially when compared to a bridge. A bridge can be difficult to floss underneath due to its connection to the adjacent teeth, but an implant in the same location does not require this attachment. Therefore, flossing the implant is easier - the same as flossing the tooth in front or behind. Implants do require regular home care as with natural teeth. It is essential to keep the gum tissue and bone around the implant healthy. If bone loss occurs, the implant is at higher risk of becoming loose.

Implant technology has grown significantly in recent years and is quickly becoming the standard of care in dentistry. Due to their stability and high predictability, implants can be used as the foundation for multiple options to replace teeth. Implants can be used to replace a single tooth with one crown ­– all the way to replacing multiple teeth with a bridge. In patients who are missing all their teeth, implants can also be used to stabilize loose dentures.

Although the goal is to keep all permanent teeth, when replacement becomes necessary, implants are a superior option.

Dr. Rob Gausmann, DDS  – Gausmann Family Dental

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