If you have one or more missing teeth, you might wonder about dental implants. Made from biocompatible titanium, dental implants can help revolutionize your smile. They take the place of tooth roots, integrating with your bone to form a strong base for dental reconstructions ranging from a single crown to a fixed replacement of all of the teeth on the upper or lower arch. Mini-implants are a newer and less expensive choice than traditional dental implants, but they have their own unique considerations.
Single Tooth Replacement
If you need to replace a single missing tooth, a conventional implant is the better choice. As a stand-alone replacement, the increased size and strength of a traditional implant means that it is less likely to fail. Traditional implants are roughly as strong as natural teeth, making it easy for the implant to withstand normal biting forces.
Implant Retained Dentures
Sometimes known as snap-on dentures, implant retained dentures are where mini-implants really shine. A handful (the exact number depends on your individual situation) of mini-implants are placed, and small attachment points are added to the denture. This allows the denture to lock into place, preventing the slippage and dislocation that many denture wearers complain about. Some long-time denture wearers even find that mini-implants allow them to eat such foods as steak and corn on the cob again without fear.
Traditional implants can also be used to retain dentures, but many people prefer the lower cost and less invasive procedure involved in placing mini-implants. If you have an existing denture, it can often be modified to add the attachments, saving you the cost of a brand new device.
Fixed Implant Bridges
If you are missing several teeth in a row, or even all of the teeth on your upper or lower arch, a fixed implant bridge is the closest replacement to your natural teeth. Supported by a few implants (again, the exact number depends on your personal needs), a fixed implant bridge is removable only by the dentist. It will function very similarly to your own teeth, and you will be unable to remove it.
Some dentists are reporting success with using mini-implants to support fixed implant bridges, but the research is still unclear. Think of it as a physics puzzle—the implants are placed in such a way as to evenly distribute biting and chewing forces. Working together, the implants can take more pressure than any individual implant could support alone. Yet each individual conventional implant can handle more pressure than each individual mini-implant, so when you combine their power, you get a significantly higher overall result than you do when combining a set of minis. Each patient is different, so your dentist will make a professional recommendation based on your own oral situation.
Mini-implants are sometimes billed as non-surgical dental implants. This is because after your gums are numbed, a small pinhole is made for the implant. The implant is carefully placed, and you are ready to eat within a couple of hours. Within 48 hours, the site is mostly healed. While it still takes a few weeks for the implant to fully integrate into the bone, the smaller size and less invasive procedure means that you can eat fairly normally during this time. Your dentist will advise you of any specific precautions you need to take.
With full-size dental implants, placement requires a bit more extensive dental surgery. Depending on your mouth’s anatomy, it might require significant gum cutting, as well as drilling a larger hole in the bone to make room for the implant. You might qualify for immediate-load implants, in which the implant immediately takes biting and chewing forces, or you might need to wear a temporary denture for a few months while the implant integrates into the bone. People in poor overall health may not be good candidates for this procedure.
Likewise, mini-implants can often be placed even when the existing bone structure is not optimal. Conventional implants often require bone grafting, an expensive procedure that also adds time to the overall treatment plan. In many cases, mini-implants can be placed without any bone grafting at all.
Which Type of Implant Is Right for Me?
Both conventional implants and mini-implants play valuable roles in modern dentistry. Which to choose is a highly complex decision that can only be made by you and your dentist. Your treatment goals, the structure of your mouth, any underlying medical conditions, your budget, and many other factors must be carefully considered. Whichever route you choose, however, you will be on the road to a better smile.
At Family Dental Care of Bellevue, we believe in providing all the latest options for excellent dental care. To schedule an appointment or to speak with our highly knowledgeable office staff, please give us a call today at 425-643-5778.