Tucson Periodontist & Dental Implant Specialist Dr. Brien Harvey
If you have a missing tooth – or a tooth that needs to be removed – utilizing a dental implant to replace this tooth likely will be your best option. Dental implants allow us to replace teeth without damaging adjacent teeth and/or increasing the risk of the adjacent teeth having problems such as fracturing or decay (cavity formation). And, if our patients take the time to keep their implants clean by brushing and flossing, thereby keeping the gums healthy and avoiding bone loss, we expect implants to last a lifetime.
In essence, a dental implant is best thought of as a replacement for the root of the missing tooth. Dr. Harvey uses pure titanium implants, and is fond of telling his patients that “human bone recognizes titanium as bone.” This means that, over time, the jaw bone fuses directly to the surface of the implant, and over a 2- to 3-month period, the implant becomes part of the bone. Once the implant is securely and strongly healed in the bone, your dentist will take an impression of the implant to allow fabrication of a custom abutment and a crown (see the next section, “Implant Crowns” for a description of this process, along with photos).
Dental implants also are the treatment of choice when a patient is missing more than one tooth, as utilizing dental implants can allow a patient to avoid the need for a removable partial denture. When a patient is missing all of his/her teeth – either upper or lower or both – utilizing two implants for a removable denture to snap onto securely will dramatically improve the functional status of a complete denture, particularly in the lower arch where unsupported dentures tend to “float.” For patients who want to transition from a complete denture to a non-removable full-arch bridge we generally use 4-6 implants.