Implants have revolutionized dentistry and are changing people’s lives every day. Prior to the advent of implants, when teeth were lost, our options for replacement were very limited. Sometimes a bridge could be placed, which utilizes adjacent teeth to support the missing one. Sometimes the only choice was to make a removable appliance, a far from ideal restoration. Implants are small titanium posts that are placed in the bone and used as a foundation to support the missing teeth. We no longer have to use other teeth to provide support (thus compromising them), nor do we have to rely on removable restorations. Implant supported teeth look, feel, and function like normal teeth. We use them for single tooth, multiple teeth, and sometimes full upper and/or lower arch restorations.
The first step in implant treatment is a consultation with us. We will perform a clinical examination and if necessary take some digital radiographs to determine if implants are indicated. Sometimes further imaging such as a CT scan is recommended and we will arrange for this as well. Implant restorations have three parts. There is the fixture which is the part that is placed in the bone. There is an abutment (or a post) which attaches to the fixture and supports the restoration. Finally, there is the restoration which may be a single crown, an implant supported bridge, or some type of implant overdenture.
Implants are restoratively driven. This means that the placement and the position of the implants are determined by the final restorations. The fixtures will be placed by an oral surgeon or a periodontist but it is important to first have a game plan in mind. Where should the implants be placed? How many implants are needed? What is the sequence of treatment and how will the patient be temporized (if necessary) until the final work is completed? These are some of the questions that are discussed at the first visit.
Once we have a treatment plan finalized, the implants are placed. In complicated cases, we will provide the surgeon with a surgical guide to insure ideal placement. The implants will generally not be restored for 2 – 4 months while the bone is growing tightly around the fixtures. This process is called osseointegration. After this waiting period, we can proceed to the final restoration. This step involves taking impressions, bite registrations and shade selection. Digital photography has aided us in expediting this process and enabled us to communicate better with our technicians to ensure a beautiful final result.