What makes implants different than bridges and dentures?

Implants replace the roots of your lost tooth with a titanium post. The bone of your jaw grows into the threads of the implant, creating a solid connection that can stand up to a lifetime of chewing.

Plus, implants help keep your jaw bones healthy and your appearance natural. Without an implant, the bone where your teeth used to be will shrink and shrivel away.

Lost some teeth? Here are your options

Live with lost teeth Implants Bridges Dentures
Big-ol' holes in your smile Natural tooth replacement Restore your smile, replacement teeth can have a dark cast Restore your smile, fit can feel unnatural                         
Bone shrinks away where tooth used to be Preserve gums and bone Bone shrinks away where tooth used to be Bone shrinks away where teeth used to be
Adjacent teeth may shift into the gap or become loose Preserve alignment and roots of adjacent teeth Adjacent teeth are ground down to hold bridge and must carry extra stress What adjacent teeth?
Can make it hard to chew and speak, but fun to squish your tongue through! Solid anchor, as strong as a natural tooth Anchor to adjacent teeth, can accumulate food and plaque Chewing capability reduced
Permanent loss Permanent repair 5-7 year lifespan 7-10 year lifespan

What we’re planting: the anatomy of a dental implant 

A dental implant is basically three pieces of hardware that replace your lost tooth

  • A titanium bolt that a surgeon embeds in the bone of your jaw
  • An abutment that screws onto the bolt and is the foundation for the crown
  • A crown or dentures that mount onto the abutment

The dental implant process

Getting implants takes more time than alternatives like bridges and dentures. Your body needs to heal after each procedure, which means the whole process can take six months or more. But the end result is a natural looking tooth that lasts a lifetime.

First: A full study of your mouth

Your dentist and oral surgeon will use X-Rays to evaluate the health of your jaw and adjoining teeth. Any other concerns — cavities, infections, etc. — will be taken care of before the implants.

You may need bone restoration

If you lost your tooth (or teeth) because of advanced gum disease, or a long time has passed since they were pulled, your jaw bone may be too weak to support an implant. To strengthen it, an oral surgeon will graft sterile bone material onto your jaw. Your surgeon will keep tabs on your progress. It can take up to six months for new bone to grow around the graft.

Second: Placing the implant

Your oral surgeon will install a titanium bolt deep into your jaw. Sounds scary, but it’s a relatively simple procedure. It just takes a little local numbing. You won’t feel a thing. Once the bolt is placed, the surgeon will cover it with a temporary crown.

Osseointegration time!

"Osseo" means bone in Latin (os in French, hueso in Spanish!) "Integration" you probably know! During osseointegration, the bone of your jaw grows around and into the implant. After 3-6 months, the bolt is as firmly rooted in your jaw as a natural tooth.

Third: Dental impressions and crown design

Your dentist will take impressions of your teeth to make a mold of your entire mouth. A lab will use the impression to cast a three-dimensional model of your teeth that they'll use to craft the permanent crown that will mount on your implant. The lab will shape your new crown so that it blends in naturally with your teeth.

Fourth: Placing the crown

Once your implant is completely healed and ready to support your new crown, your dentist will install it permanently. You'll be able to bite, gnaw and chew with it just like a natural tooth. Plus, your jawbone will stay healthy and strong.

Missing bunches of teeth? Think about implant-secured dentures

When you have chompers mounted on implants, your jaw bones stay healthy and you can tackle corn on the cob, no problem.

Learn about implant dentures