Dental implants have been used for decades in order to help replace single or multiple missing teeth. The roots of modern-day implantology first began in the 1950s with Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark and his research on osseointegration of bone around implants. Since this time there have been countless innovations that have led the placement and restoration of dental implants to be a very predictable procedure.
When we refer to dental implants replacing a single tooth, it is comprised of three key components – the dental implant, the abutment, and the crown. The dental implant itself serves as an “anchor” within the bone. The crown then connects to the implant via the abutment.
Image Credit: Nobel Biocare
The placement of a dental implant depends on several factors. The first step is to complete a thorough review of medical and dental histories as well as conduct a comprehensive dental exam. Following the examination, we must then determine the availability of bone for the implant to reside in. After loss of a natural tooth, the surrounding bone will naturally deteriorate over time. In order to ensure that there is still adequate bone structure remaining a three-dimensional radiograph is taken – this is known as a CBCT (Cone Beam Computed Tomography). These images can be conveniently administered and evaluated in the dental office during your examination visit. Unfortunately, there are instances where there is not adequate space to place the implant and pre-implant grafting or bone augmentation is needed.
Once it is determined that the intended area is suitable for implant placement a digital plan is made to diagnose the location of the implant and the future crown. On the day of the procedure the patient is thoroughly numbed, and the bone is the prepared for the implant to be placed. Based on the particular scenario and the stability of the implant upon placement, the implant is either completely covered by the gums, a “healing abutment” is placed which emerges through the gums, or a temporary crown is placed. After several months of healing and verification that the implant is stable within the bone, a final impression is made, which is used to fabricate the crown. Once the crown is complete, it is then attached to the implant.
When the single-tooth implant is restored the patient is able to chew, brush, and floss as they would with a natural tooth. Just as with natural teeth, implants must be monitored and professionally cleaned on a regular basis to ensure that area remains healthy.