Dentistry
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Updated on September 29, 2022

Types of Dental Implants & How They Work

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What are Dental Implants?

A dental implant is an artificial tooth root surgically implanted into your jawbone. It is a popular tooth replacement option after tooth loss or extraction.

Dental implants have resulted in successful dental restorations for over 30 years. More than 5 million dental implants are placed in the U.S. every year.

Dental Implant Structure: How They Work

The body of a dental implant consists of three pieces that serve different functions:

  1. The implant (or screw) serves as the tooth's artificial root.
  2. The abutment is the connecting post between the implant screw and crown.
  3. The crown is the 'fake' tooth that rests on top of the abutment. They match the shape and look of your natural teeth.
dental implant structure

Dental Implant Techniques & Materials

Dental implants come in two different forms, including:

Endosteal Implant

An endosteal implant (root form implant) is the most commonly used today. It is made with titanium, small screws, and alloplastic material, which refers to an artificial tissue graft.

Endosteal implants are surgically inserted into the jawbone. Over time, the implants bond with the natural bone.

Subperiosteal Implant

Subperiosteal implants are extremely rare. However, they are a better option for people with insufficient natural jawbones to support endosteal implants.

A subperiosteal implant is placed under the gums (on or above the jawbone). It is not surgically inserted into the jawbone.

4 Types of Dental Implants

There are different types of dental implants available:

1. Single Tooth Implant

A single dental implant is ideal when one tooth is missing, and you want to replace it for aesthetics, comfort, and function. It requires one dental crown that connects to the implant screw.

The average cost of a single tooth implant can range from $3,000 to $4,000

2. Implant-Supported Bridge

Implant-supported bridges are ideal for people with several missing teeth. The implant acts as an anchor for the bridge (instead of a natural tooth).  

A fixed dental bridge restores function by preventing other teeth from moving. It also improves eating and speaking functions.

An implant-supported bridge costs between $5,000 and $16,000.

3. All-on-4 Dental Implants

All-on-4 implants are recommended when a patient is looking for a secure solution for many missing teeth. This solution restores your entire upper or lower jaw (or both arches).

This is a permanent restoration. However, the overdenture can be removed for cleaning and dental exams.

The average cost ranges from $15,000 to $20,000 per arch

4. 3-on-6 Dental Implants

An alternative to an implant-retained denture is a 3-on-6 implant. It consists of three individual dental bridges attached to six dental implants.

The cost of 3-on-6 implants can range from $10,000 to $15,000 per arch

Benefits of Dental Implants

Dental implants have their benefits. However, they can also come with disadvantages.

Here are the benefits of dental implants:

  • Allows you to chew and speak normally
  • Designed to look like your natural teeth, improving your self-esteem
  • Reduces stress on your remaining natural teeth by offering independent support
  • Preserves bone, reducing the appearance of aging
  • Helps prevent loss of jaw height
  • Easy to clean and care for
  • With proper care, implants can last between 15 and 25 years

Here are the disadvantages of getting dental implants:

  • Will not whiten like your natural teeth
  • Requires an invasive surgery for placement
  • They are expensive (but the long-term benefits are usually worth it)
  • Bone grafting may be necessary before placement if you do not have enough natural bone remaining

Dental Implant Procedure: Step-By-Step

Dental implant procedures are a type of outpatient surgery. Patients can return home on the same day of surgery.

The procedure can take many months to complete due to the healing process and artificial tooth (crown) placement. Professionals who can perform a dental implant surgery include:

The procedure is separated into multiple steps, depending on the number of implants a patient needs:

1. Remove the Tooth

If the damaged tooth is still in your mouth, the dentist will extract it. This step is not necessary if your tooth is already missing.

2. Grafting and Jawbone Preparation

Patients who undergo implant surgery may have thin or soft jawbones. In this case, bone grafting will be necessary.

It improves the quantity of bone and ensures the procedure doesn’t fail. The healing process for bone grafts takes a few months before a dental implant can be placed.

3. Implant Placement

During the actual procedure, the oral surgeon exposes the bone by cutting the gums.

An oral surgeon or periodontist drills holes into the bone. Then they position the implant (a post) deep into the bone, which functions as the tooth’s root.

If a front tooth is being restored, the dentist will fill the space with a temporary removable solution while the implant heals below the gums. If it is a back tooth, they will not place anything over it.

4. Healing and Growth

Osseointegration begins after the metal implant is placed in your jawbone. This is when the supporting bone begins to bond with the implant.

This process can take several months to complete and ensures the base is sturdy enough to support an artificial tooth (dental crown).

5. Abutment Placement (Crown Preparation)

After the healing process is complete, your dentist will place an abutment on top of the implant post.

The abutment extends the implant above the soft tissue (gums). This step allows for easy placement of the dental crown.

6. Crown Placement (Artificial Tooth)

Once the implant grows into the bone and is strong enough to support chewing, your dentist will make new impressions of your mouth.

A dental technician will create a custom dental crown in a lab. The dental crown looks similar to your natural teeth and sits on the abutment (connector). It becomes the only visible part of the implant.

7. Aftercare

Pain medications and antibiotics are usually prescribed post-op. It is important to only eat soft foods and practice excellent oral care habits during the healing process. 

Restrict the intake of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco to see the best results. Regular check-ups are necessary during the first few months after the procedure. You should also keep up with regular dental exams post-surgery.

Side Effects and Complications of Dental Implant Surgery

Most implant procedures are successful. However, there is still a risk of incorrect healing.

To reduce this risk, practice good oral health care at home, including proper nutrition, brushing, and flossing.

As with any dental surgery, minor discomfort is normal. Common side effects(that aren’t threatening to the implant) include:

  • Gum and face swelling
  • Bruises on the skin or gums
  • Minor bleeding
  • Pain where the implant was placed

More serious complications that can develop after an implant is placed include:

  • Damage to your surrounding teeth, gums, and/or blood vessels
  • Infection at the implant site
  • Prolonged bleeding
  • Sinus issues and pressure (if the implant is placed in your upper jaw)
  • Fractured jaw and jaw pain
  • Nerve damage, which can lead to tingling in the mouth or lips

How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?

Dental implants cost between $1,000 and $4,500 per tooth.

Does Insurance Cover Dental Implants?

Some insurance plans cover dental implants, while others do not or only cover part of the procedure. For example, some dental insurance plans may cover the crown attached to the implant.

Some medical insurance plans will cover part of the surgery if the procedure is medically necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are dental implants painful?

You will most likely experience minor pain after surgery, but over-the-counter pain relievers can help reduce discomfort.

The pain should diminish after about a week. However, the implant can take up to 6 months to fully heal.

Are dental implants safe?

Implant dentistry has been practiced for over 50 years.

Dental implants are a safe and successful tooth replacement treatment option when done correctly and by the right specialists (e.g., periodontists and oral surgeons). Most people who get implants do not experience any problems, and the procedures have a high success rate.

How long do dental implants last?

If you take care of your replacement tooth and practice good oral hygiene, it can last between 15 and 25 years, sometimes longer. Some people get their implants replaced earlier due to cosmetic concerns.

How common are dental implants?

In the U.S., more than 5 million dental implants are placed every year.

How common is dental implant failure?

It is estimated that about 5 to 10 percent of dental implants fail.

Why do dental implants fail?

The most common reason for failure is unsuccessful osseointegration (which means the implant has not bonded correctly with your jawbone). Other causes include allergic reactions, tissue damage, infections, sinus problems, smoking, and body rejection.

What are the symptoms of a failed dental implant?

Symptoms can include a loose or shifting implant, swollen gums, gum recession around the restoration, severe pain near the implant, and difficulty chewing.

6 Sources Cited
Last updated on September 29, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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  2. Hollins, Carole. Basic Guide to Dental Procedures. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2015.
  3. Misch, Carl E. Dental Implant Prosthetics - E-Book. Mosby, 2014.
  4. Syrbu, John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry, 2013.
  5. Types of Implants and Techniques.” American Academy of Implant Dentistry.
  6. Dental Implants: What You Should Know.” FDA, 2021.
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