Are Dental Implants Permanent?
If you are missing a single tooth, multiple consecutive teeth, several teeth spread across an arch, or all of your teeth, dental implants offer you a replacement option that is most similar to your natural teeth. Missing teeth can make you feel embarrassed, which takes a toll on your confidence. You may also have trouble eating and speaking. If you are looking for a permanent solution that will restore the function and beauty of your smile, dental implants may be a wonderful choice. However, to fully understand what makes dental implants "permanent," become familiar with the ins and outs of this restorative treatment, so you truly understand your options.
What Is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is a titanium post that an implant dentist or oral surgeon surgically places into your jawbone. This does not include the portion of your tooth replacement that rests above your gum, on top of the post, which will look like a tooth in the case of a single implant. You may see a loved one point to his or her tooth replacement, and refer to it as a dental implant. This is both accurate and inaccurate. While many individuals refer to all pieces of this prosthetic tooth replacement as "dental implant," only the titanium post is the implant, replacing your tooth's roots. So while your loved one does, in fact, have an implant, the visible portion is a separate prosthetic.
Dental implants - which are the posts only - are permanent. After the surgical placement, the post will fuse to your jawbone through a process called osseointegration. After three to four months of healing, the post and your bone will become one.
What Is a Restoration?
This is the part that confuses people. A restoration is the prosthetic that a dentist places on top of your dental implant (titanium post) to complete your tooth replacement procedure. Restorations may be fixed, which is often referred to as permanent. Or, restorations may be removable, which you may refer to as temporary. Consider the following types of restorations for a clearer understanding of what might make your restoration fixed or removable:
- Dental Crown: Often referred to as a "cap" because it is hollow, and fits over a natural tooth or dental implant post, a dental crown is often referred to as a permanent prosthetic. However, the crown will eventually wear down and require replacement, often after 10 to 15 years. Made out of ceramic, your porcelain crown is custom-fitted to your mouth and remains in place all day, and all night. You will care for your dental crown much like your natural teeth.
- Dentures and Partial Dentures: Dentures are prosthetics composed of acrylic "gums" and porcelain "teeth" and replace a full arch of teeth. You may choose dentures as your restoration. Your dentist will create small encasements within the denture that will fit securely over implant posts. A partial denture is similar, but replaces one or several teeth either in a row, or spread across your arch - these can also be fitted to dental implants for a stable fit. You will be able to take your denture or partial denture out of your mouth at will. These restorations are permanent in that they provide a long-lasting solution, but they are removable, rather than fixed. Like crowns, dentures will eventually wear down and require replacement.
What Does Implant-Retained and Screw-Retained Mean?
Now you understand that dental implants are always permanent, and refer only to the titanium post that fuses to your jawbone. You also know that restorations may be fixed or removable. When you hear a dentist talking about "implant-retained dentures" or "screw-retained dentures" you may, once again, begin scratching your head. Fortunately, the difference is simple: Implant-retained dentures fit securely over your dental implants, and you can remove them at will.
Screw-retained dentures fit over your dental implant posts, but your dentist will screw them in for added stability - this takes them from "removable" to "fixed." Even though your dentist can unscrew your restoration when necessary, you will leave them in day and night.
Consult an Implant Dentist or Oral Surgeon
If you are looking for a permanent solution to missing teeth, dental implants may offer you the stability you desire. To learn more about the benefits of dental implants, and your many restoration options, speak with an experienced implant dentist or oral surgeon in your area today.
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