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Different Types of Dental Implants & How They Work

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According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), people between 20 and 64 years have an average of 25 teeth left in their mouth, out of a possible total of 32. For many of these adults, using dental implants is one of the most preferred ways to replace missing teeth.

But did you know there’s more than one option available when picking these implants? And no, we are not talking about the various brands available, but the different types of dental implants that you can get based on your situation, preferences, budget, and much more.

This post comprehensively takes you through the different types of dental implants and their applications.

What Are Dental Implants?

A dental implant is an artificial tooth root surgically implanted into your jawbone. The tooth root resembles a screw and bonds with your natural bone. Dentists use a connector, also referred to as an abutment, to hold the artificial tooth, also known as the crown, in place. Dental implants are a popular option for those that wish to get a long-lasting solution to their missing teeth.

Types of Dental Implants

There are a wide variety of dental implants that you may get to replace your natural teeth. Although there may not be a one-size-fits-all in dental implants, you can get a type that best fits your needs by considering factors such as: 

Although all dental implants help restore the natural functionality of missing natural teeth, they do so in different ways. The positioning, the materials, and the techniques used determine the type of dental implants you get. 

So, what are the different types of dental implants?

Here’s a complete differentiation of the types of dental implants to help you determine the right one for you based on their positioning, materials, and techniques used.

Types of Dental Implant Positioning

Depending on the various factors, including your jawbone health and preferences, you may work with one of the following types of dental implants: 

Endosteal implants

Endosteal implants are the ‘traditional’ implants that you may have come to know about. But exactly what are endosteal implants?

These implants are placed directly into the jawbone and are typically made from titanium and shaped like small screws. 

Endosteal Implant

This is the most common type of dental implant as it protects the patient’s jawbone from gradual deterioration. However, it requires a significant amount of bone density before it can be inserted. Patients with low bone density may require additional procedures, such as a bone graft to strengthen the jaw, to qualify for this treatment.

Endosteal implants cost anywhere between $1,000 and $4,500 per implant. However, you can look at some of the best dental discount plans to find lower-cost implants.

Subperiosteal implants

Different Types of Dental Implants & How They Work 1

Subperiosteal dental implants are placed under the gums. Unlike endosteal implants, these aren’t inserted directly into the jawbone but are placed either above or on it. 

Patients who lack a significant amount of healthy jawbone to support endosteal implants and do not wish to undergo additional procedures like bone grafting can use subperiosteal implants. Different practices charge differently for these implants. However, subperiosteal implants cost up to $4,800 per implant.

Zygomatic dental implants

Types of dental implants zygomatic

The bone in the ridge of your jaw may shrink over time due to various reasons, including aging, trauma, or diseases. In this case, you may lack enough jawbone to support dental implants. However, if you are keen and set on getting implants, your dentist may recommend an elongated version of dental implants known as zygomatic implants. 

The zygoma commonly referred to as the cheekbone is closely situated near the bone in your upper jaw. Zygomatic implants can be placed in the zygomatic arch of your bone if there isn’t enough bone where your tooth roots used to be. 

A dentist will first assess their patient’s jawbone density to help them determine and settle on an ideal type of dental implant.

The cost of zygomatic implants varies depending on various factors like location, the dentist, and the patient’s case. Be sure to consult your dentist on the precise cost before agreeing to the procedure.

Types of Dental Implant Materials

You can get dental implants based on the material used to make them. The dental implants types of materials affect the total price and also the experience the patient gets with the implants. Most dental implants are made from either titanium or zirconia. So, how do they differ? 

Titanium implants

Titanium has been time-proven to be a successful and long-lasting option for dental implants. This material fuses well with the bone and has long been used in other situations, including hip or knee replacements. Titanium is strong and quite durable. However, it is also lightweight, which makes it ideal for tooth replacement. 

Almost everyone is an ideal candidate for titanium implants. However, your dentist may rule you out if you have autoimmune diseases or allergies.

Zirconia implants

Zirconia is fairly new in its use for dental implants. This metal-free crystal material offers an alternative option for patients who seek implants but cannot get titanium ones due to allergies or certain autoimmune diseases.

The process of getting zirconia dental implants is also more straightforward than titanium implants, thanks to its one-piece construction, which makes for a shorter surgery compared to the three-piece surgery for titanium implants. 

As they are relatively new in dentistry, there isn’t much conclusive research and findings on the durability of zirconia dental implants. In addition, these types of dental implants cost more than titanium-based dental implants. 

You may find implants sometimes made from stainless steel, cobalt-chromium, or gold. However, these materials are not used as often, and you may hardly find these options from a reputable dentist. This is because these materials have a lower success rate, hence the reason why dentists prefer titanium for dental implants and zirconia as the preferred alternative. 

Different Dental Implant Techniques

There are several dental implant techniques used by dentists to secure dental implants in place. The technique used depends on the type of implant used. The different dental implant techniques can be categorized into two: traditional and alternative methods. 

Traditional implant technique

The traditional implant technique is the most common one that makes use of titanium implants. This method involves the endosteal position of the implant and has three distinct parts. 

For starters, the dentist inserts the implant — which appears like a screw — and embeds it into your jawbone. This implant acts like the root of your teeth and is left to heal (and fuse with your bone) for a few weeks or months before the second part, the abutment, is installed. 

The abutment is the middle connector piece that attaches to the top of the implant to hold the crown in place. This connector piece is installed after the implant area has healed and is placed right below a custom-made crown to complete the dental implant. 

The traditional implant technique happens over several weeks or months and is ideal for patients who have lost only a few teeth. There are alternative implant techniques that may be useful to patients who are in different other scenarios. 

Alternative implant techniques

Patients who do not wish to undergo the traditional techniques or are not suitable candidates for the traditional implant techniques can use alternative methods to get their desired results. There are several available options, including: 

Immediate load dental implants

Traditionally, the entire process of getting a complete dental implant can take weeks or even months. This means that when you get the titanium implant installed today, you will have to wait until the region heals before you get the rest of the parts installed. 

The immediate load dental implant alternative technique involves getting a temporary tooth right after the surgery. This means one doesn’t need to wait for months before getting their crown or fake tooth installed. 

In essence, this technique enables patients to get dental implants within a day. However, the immediate fake tooth you get is only temporary and will have to be eventually replaced with a permanent crown. 

This technique may only be an option if the patient has enough natural bone and the implant can be confirmed to be very secure after placement. 

Mini dental implants

Mini dental implants, just as the name implies are smaller-sized implants. Technically, these implants are close to the size of a toothpick and require a less invasive procedure to insert them. They are mostly used to stabilize lower dentures. 

In this case, if someone’s missing most of their teeth and decides to use dentures, mini dental implants can keep them in place and offer better stability. Mini dental implants are not necessarily a substitute for traditional dental implants since they cannot withstand the full pressure of biting or chewing.

All-on-4 implants

Patients missing all or most of their top or bottom teeth may opt for all-on-4 implants. As the name suggests, this technique supports full-mouth dental implants using only four titanium implants embedded in the jawbone. 

Those with adequate jawbone density to support a full arch of teeth and who need to replace most or all of their top or bottom teeth are good candidates for this method.

Nevertheless, although this can be a convenient method, the all-on-4 implant technique may not be ideal for everyone. The same applies to all other alternative and traditional implant techniques. It would be prudent first to consult with your dentist to help determine if you are a good candidate before proceeding with any other steps. 

3-on-6 implants

Just like the all-on-4 implants, 3-on-6 implants are another alternative to implant-retained dentures. This involves the use of three individual dental bridges attached to six dental implants. When you look at different types of dental implants pictures, you’ll notice that this technique seems to offer even more stability than other types of implant-retained dentures.

Implant-supported bridge

An implant-supported bridge is ideal for patients with several missing teeth. It acts as an anchor for the bridge and restores functionality by preventing other teeth from moving. It is also useful in improving eating and speaking.

Picture of three types of implant techniques (left to right): replace one tooth, replace multiple teeth, replace all teeth

Dental Implant Procedure: Step-By-Step Guide

The dental implant procedure can be lengthy and takes weeks or months before you are completely done. This is because there has to be some time between the procedures to allow healing to occur. However, this is an outpatient procedure, and there’s no need for you to spend a night at the hospital or clinic. 

Nevertheless, the implant procedure is divided into several steps, all determined by the type of implants one’s getting, the technique used, and the number of implants received. In an ideal setting, different stages are handled by different dental professionals. This is why it is important to note how different professionals work. 

You can get started with our post on orthodontist vs dentist.

Here’s a general outlook of the dental implant procedure to expect when you wish to get implants:

Step 1: Tooth removal

The first step will be to extract the tooth if it is still there. If it’s already missing, you will skip this step. 

Step 2: Jawbone preparation

Before your dentist can approve you for dental implants, they will first assess your jawbone structure to determine your candidacy. If you have a thin or soft jawbone, some procedures like bone grafting may become necessary. 

Bone grafting improves the volume of bone in the region and reduces the chances of the procedure failing. 

The healing process after a jawbone preparation may take a few months before the implant can be placed. 

Step 3: Implant placement

Implant placement is one of the most crucial stages in implant dentistry. This procedure is done by an oral surgeon by cutting the gums and exposing the bone. Thereafter, they drill holes into the bone to position the implant deep inside. This implant functions as the tooth’s root.

The implant is left to fuse slowly with the bone, allowing time for the area to heal. This process may take weeks or even months.

Step 4: Abutment placement

After the healing process is complete and the dentist confirms that the implant has bonded with the bone and is sturdy enough, they will place the abutment. This connector piece is placed on top of the implant post and extends the implant above the soft tissues. This step allows for easy placement of a dental crown. 

Step 5: Crown placement

Once your implant is strong enough to support functions of the mouth, like chewing, your dentist makes new impressions of your mouth and any existing teeth. A dental technician thereafter creates a custom dental crown in a lab. 

These crowns, which look and feel similar to your natural teeth, sit on the connector (abutment) and become the only visible part of the dental implant.

Considering the Pros and Cons of Dental Implants

Are dental implants worth it? To help you determine if these are ideal for you, it would be prudent to consider both their advantages and drawbacks. 

Advantages of Dental Implants

Here are some reasons why you should get dental implants: 

Disadvantages of Dental Implants

Here are some reasons you may not opt for dental implants: 

Final Thoughts: Find Your Perfect Smile

Dental implants have been time-tested and proven to be the best solution to replacing missing teeth. They act and function like natural teeth and are sturdy enough even for tough foods. The fact that you may have to undergo invasive surgery and wait longer to see results may be off-putting, but this may be a small price to pay for a life-durable treatment.

FAQ

Most frequent questions and answers

Dental implants have been used for many years and are proven to be safe. Patients with good health face almost no risk of complications during and after the procedure. Dentists will also assess one’s oral health before approving their candidacy for dental implants to reduce the chances of facing any complications. 

The procedure for getting dental implants is not painful as the oral surgeon uses local anesthesia to numb the pain. However, you may feel slight pain and discomfort after the procedure once the anesthesia wears off. Fortunately, your doctor will prescribe over-the-counter pain medication to control the pain.

Many factors come into play when determining the total cost of an implant. However, most types of dental implants cost between $1,000 and $4,500 per implant. 

Some dental insurance providers cover dental implants. Some may offer full support, while others will pay for a portion of the total cost. However, it is important to discuss with your insurance provider the extent of your coverage based on your plan.

Dental implants are designed to last a lifetime, and they can be expected to go for 25-30 years without the need for a replacement. 

Sources

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