Dental implants are one of the most important innovations in dentistry. They are used to replace one or more missing teeth and are a good option for people who are missing either a single tooth, multiple teeth or even an entire set of upper or lower teeth.
The Swedish orthopedic surgeon Per-Ingvar Brånemark pioneered the modern era of dental implants when he placed titanium rods in the bones of rabbits. He found that the titanium bonded with the bone, forming a strong foundation for artificial teeth. Brånemark's discovery led to the development of dental implants made from titanium, which are still used today. The first dental implant was fitted into a human jaw bone in 1965. His work revolutionized dentistry and changed the lives of millions of patients worldwide who have lost teeth due to injury or disease.
Conventional dental implants have three main parts: fixture, abutment, and prosthesis.
The fixture is the implant itself; think of it as the root of the tooth, and the prosthesis is the artificial tooth. The abutment is the metal structure that connects the two.
The implant post is usually made of titanium. You don't usually see the abutment because it is hidden under the gum but it's an integral part of the system. The crown is usually made from Zirconia, the strongest and most biocompatible material available for dental restorations.
The fixture is a screw-like post implanted into the jawbone to provide a strong and stable foundation for replacement teeth. Implants are made of titanium because it is one of the few biocompatible materials. This means it does not trigger an immune reaction and is not rejected by the body.
Titanium is a durable, lightweight metal that is resistant to corrosion. It has a very high success rate for dental implants because it has the ability to fuse with the bone through a process called osseointegration. Once they're surgically placed in the jawbone, the bone grows around and bonds to the metal surface of the implant, creating a secure connection.
This interface becomes progressively stronger as more bone is deposited and remodeled around the implant. The result is a rigid fixation between bone and metal that can withstand the forces generated by chewing and other normal jaw movements. Osseointegration typically occurs over 3-4 months and is facilitated by the body's natural healing processes. Once healed, the implant functions like any other tooth:
An abutment is a small metal connector used to join the implant post to the crown or other types of dental restoration. It makes it possible to switch out a dental prosthesis without removing the entire implant. In short, abutments act as the mediator between the crown and the implant. They are an essential part of the dental implant process and can help to ensure a successful outcome.
Titanium abutments are the most commonly used type of abutment because of their strength and compatibility with bone tissue. However, zirconia abutments are becoming increasingly popular due to their esthetic properties—they can be made to match the color of natural teeth, making them virtually invisible when in place.
Dental abutments come in many different shapes and sizes. The type of abutment chosen will be based on several factors, including the location of the implant, the prosthetic being used, and aesthetics. Abutments are almost always secured onto the implant using a small screw.
Screw fractures and failed osseointegration are common problems affecting implants. It's important not to over-tighten the abutment screw to prevent screw fracture and other complications. For single-unit implants, Dr. Samani may use a healing abutment over the implant to expedite the gum tissue healing process.
On top of the abutment is the prosthesis. Different types of prostheses can be attached to a dental implant. Depending on the extent of tooth loss, Dr. Samani may suggest a crown for single tooth replacement and implant-supported bridge or dentures for multiple missing teeth.
A dental prosthesis is usually made of porcelain or zirconia and is either screwed or cemented onto an abutment. Dr. Samani mainly uses zirconia crowns in his Austin, TX, Dentist's office to restore the missing tooth's function. Zirconia has superior qualities compared to other dental crown materials. It's sturdier, stronger, and more fracture-resistant.