Has your dentist recommended a dental implant to you recently? If you’ve lost a tooth or have one naturally missing, the likely answer would be yes. 

Implant dentistry has risen to a new standard in recent years making it the "Gold Standard" for replacing missing teeth. But, this also comes with quite the price tag attached. So, what makes them so great and should you be considering them over other more inexpensive options?

To answer all your questions, lets get down to the basics of what a dental implant really is and how it is placed.


A dental implant is made up of three major components. The implant itself, which replaces the previous natural tooth root; An abutment, which acts as a connector and supports the crown; and the Crown, this is the piece that mimics the previous natural tooth crown.



                      IMPLANT                                        BRIDGE                                                     DENTURES


The implant placement is a minor surgical procedure where the implant piece is surgically placed into the jaw bone. As you heal the implant fuses (osseointegrates) with your natural bone and this process may takes several weeks or months. When healing is completed the abutment is placed on top of the implant to connect it with the replacement crown.


What exactly about that procedure makes an implant so beneficial?


Well, an implant is the only option that actually integrates with your jaw bone to prevent bone deterioration from occurring. Your natural teeth are constantly stimulating the bone to help it maintain its integrity. When a tooth is lost, there is no more stimulation and therefore the bone begins to resorb. Placing a bridge or a denture only cosmetically fixes the missing tooth problem, but they do not address the bone resorption issue whereas an implant does both.


Now lets compare that to the placement of a bridge and a denture; which would be the next best options that your dentist would likely recommend. 


A bridge placement is similar to that of a crown, except two teeth are shaved down to make room for the crown cover and they are usually still healthy teeth. Once that is done, a three unit bridge would be placed, the middle crown being the one that is replacing the missing tooth. With this treatment you would cosmetically have a similar effect to an implant, but physically it is much different. In this option the middle crown is essentially floating and only attaches to the two adjacent crowns. So bone loss is to be expected over time and in some cases, the need for root canal therapys on the two supporting teeth will arise. This is because with time, the bridge will need to be replaced and the supporting teeth will have to be shaved down even more. With this amount of tooth structure loss, complications could arise and root canal therapy would be the only option. 


Placing a denture is a bit less invasive and not a permanent treatment. A denture is typically placed using adjacent teeth as support with metal clasps. A complete denture would use a glue like material to have it stuck on. This option is not as comfortable as a bridge or an implant because the denture is not permanently fixed to one spot with such effective procedures. Shifting is common with dentures and the need for re-adjustment arrises quite often. Bone loss is inevitable with this option as well as other problems regarding oral hygiene practice. 



Why is maintaining your bone so important?


There are a few reasons why maintaining a healthy jaw bone structure is important. Lets take some examples to help you understand more what happens when you lose one or more teeth.

Your bone surrounds the entire structure of your tooth root, so if the bone starts pulling up and away from the root, the tooth becomes loose because it no longer has a strong supporting structure. If a tooth is lost, the bone no longer has to support anything in that spot and is no longer stimulated so it begins to resorb back up. This will affect the surrounding teeth causing bone to pull away from them on the side adjacent to the missing tooth.  If you have more than one tooth missing, this can cause anatomical changes to your entire face shape like sagging and sinking of the cheeks as a result of the extensive bone loss.

This makes implants the preferred choice among all the tooth replacement options available because you eliminate the cause of bone loss and you preserve the health of the surrounding teeth.


So, when we look at the implant vs. bridges and dentures it is clear that the preservation of the oral structures is more effective with the implant while also having a beautiful cosmetic finish. Plus, dental implants are built to last, with the potential of lasting a lifetime if taken care of properly.  Which is also why they are at the high end of the pricing scale, since a replacement will likely not be necessary.


For all of these reasons the implant has taken the number one spot in replacement teeth therapy. So, If you weren't sure whether an implant was right for you or what it really was, hopefully this has helped answer some of your questions and made things a bit clearer. At the end of the day you have to be comfortable with the treatment that your dentist has recommended and informed about all of your options! 




The Westboro Family Dental Team


*If you would like to know more information about Dental Implants visit http://www.aaid-implant.org*