What is a Dental Implant?

November 02, 2012 | Posted in Implants

This is a question I am asked on a daily basis...

A dental implant is a titanium fixture (shaped a bit like a screw) that is placed into the jaw bone or alveolus for the purpose of replacing a missing tooth or teeth.

The procedure is quite simple, but requires careful planning and preparation to ensure the desired result. When a single tooth is to be replaced with an implant, the size of the space and quality of the bone are assessed and then an approriate implant fixture is chosen to be placed into the bone (there are hundreds of different types and sizes!). To place the fixture, the area is anesthetized with local anesthetic just as if a filling were to placed into a tooth. A small incision is made in the gum tissue to expose the bone and a hole is made using progressively larger drills to the desired size, depth and angulation. Then, the fixture is slowly turned into placed using a special torque driver. A cap is threaded onto the top of the fixture and the gum tissue is placed back to its original position.

After the fixture is placed, there is a waiting period of 3-6 months while osseointegration takes place - the surrounding bone will grow into the flutes of the fixture forming a bone/implant unit. Once osseointegration is complete, the implant is stable enough to recieve the final prosthesis. The cap is then removed from the top of the implant fixture and an impression is made of the area. The impression is used to form a dental model from which an abutment and crown are fabricated. The abutment is either made of titanium or zirconia and is attached directly to the implant fixtre in the bone. The crown is then placed over this implant abutment and either screwed or cemented into place. This completed dental unit if properly cared for will last a lifetime!

Implants are not just for replacing a single tooth. They can be used to fill larger spaces in the form of implant-supported bridges - not every tooth to be replaced needs to have a fixture. In this image, three teeth are replaced with two implants.



If the dental arch is edentulous (i.e. no teeth) a full fixed prosthetic can be made. Often 4-6 fixtures are placed and then the entire complement of teeth are attached to these fixtures. This is the ultimate replacement for dentures! This is a life altering treatment - patients will be able to eat things they haven't been able to eat since they lost heir teeth. Patients also experience a huge boost in self-confidence due the highly esthetic nature of the restoration.



Another option for the edentulous arch would be a denture (removable appliance) that snaps onto 2-4 implant fixtures. Anyone who has dentures would appreciate having something to attach their denture to; no more floppy dentures that move when you talk and eat!

If you are tired of your old dentures or embarassed by a missing tooth or teeth, please contact us and we would be happy to discuss your dental implant options.


Dr. Luke Haslam

Basinview Dental Centre