Single Tooth Implant

What is a Single Tooth Implant?

Dental implants are titanium cylinders, otherwise known as screws, that are surgically fixed into the jawbone where teeth are missing. Once the screws are in place, they enable your dentist to mount replacement teeth onto them.

Following dental implant surgery, your new tooth will look and feel like a real tooth. If you are missing one tooth, a single implant and a dental crown can replace it. A tooth implant replaces both the lost natural tooth and its root.

How Do Single Tooth Implants Work?

During dental implant surgery, the implant is first placed into your jaw. Over the next two to six months, the implant and the bone bond together to create an anchor for your artificial tooth. During this time, a temporary tooth replacement can be fitted over the implant site.

Typically, a second step of the surgical procedure is necessary to uncover the implant and fix an extension. This temporary healing cap finishes the foundation on which your new tooth will be set. Your gums can heal for a couple of weeks after this procedure.

Some implant systems do not require this second stage. These systems use an implant that already has the extension piece fixed. Your periodontist will let you know which method is best for you.

Finally, a crown will be produced for you by your dentist and fixed to a small metal post. This metal post is called an abutment. 

Dental implants are typically so natural-looking and feeling that it is easy to forget you ever lost a tooth. Every individual's case is different, and some of these steps can be used together when necessary. A dental professional will work with you to arrange the best treatment plan for your needs.

The whole process of getting a single tooth implant can take months. If your dentist decides that your jawbone is not sturdy enough for the implant, the first step will involve bone grafting. 

Grafting involves extracting bone from another source (or using synthetic material) and adding it to your jaw to make it more robust. In these cases, your jaw requires four to twelve months to heal before getting the implant.

Types of Single Tooth Implants

There are two main types of single tooth implants:

Endosteal

These dental implants are fitted in the jawbone. They are usually made of titanium and are formed like small screws. They are the most popular type of implant.

jaw with teeth and dental molar implant

Endosteal

These dental implants are fitted in the jawbone. They are usually made of titanium and are formed like small screws. They are the most popular type of implant.

Subperiosteal

These dental implants are fitted under the gum. They are placed on, or above, the jawbone. 

This type of implant is commonly used in patients who do not have enough healthy natural jawbone. These patients usually cannot, or do not want, to have a bone augmentation procedure to rebuild their jawbone.

If your jawbone cannot support dental implants, several methods can be used to rebuild bone, restore your jawline, and give a robust foundation for implant-supported teeth.

Bone augmentation is one of these techniques. The procedure involves regenerating or restoring bone in your jaw when it cannot otherwise support implants. Using bone additives and growth factors to strengthen the bone usually provides the best results.

A sinus lift is another option. It is also called sinus augmentation or sinus elevation. The procedure involves adding bone below the sinus where the natural bone has decayed due to missing upper back teeth.

Single-tooth dentures are also an option. These are a type of partial, removable dentures.

Finally, there is ridge expansion. If your jaw is not wide enough to support implants, bone graft material can be added to a small ridge or space made along the top of your jaw.

Who is a Candidate for Single Tooth Implants?

For some people, dental bridges and dentures are not comfortable or possible to have for several reasons. 

These reasons include:

  • A lack of bone or tooth support
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Discomfort
  • Gagging

Additionally, dental bridges must fix to the teeth or either side of the space left by a missing tooth. A benefit of implants is that no adjacent teeth need preparation to fit your new replacement tooth in place.

To be eligible for a dental implant, patients must have:

  • Healthy gums
  • Enough bone to support the implant (or qualify for bone grafting)
  • Excellent oral health and hygiene
  • Regular dental visits for the long-term efficiency and health of the dental implant

To be eligible for a dental implant, your jawbone must be strong enough to support the dental implant procedure. The surrounding gum tissue and teeth must be in good dental health. If there is not enough bone to support the implant, extra bone can be added through bone grafting.

It is essential that an implant dentist performs a comprehensive review of your medical history and conducts an exam before starting the procedure. Some medical issues could prevent an individual from receiving dental implants.

For example, these medical problems may include:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • A severe bleeding disorder
  • Cancer

What Kind of Problems Can be Treated with a Single Tooth Implant? 

If you have lost a tooth because of a sports injury, oral health problems, or gum disease, a single tooth implant may be suitable for you. Some people are congenitally missing a tooth that needs replacement.

The implant is produced to replace a missing tooth and its root. It offers the most natural look and function of all tooth replacement methods.

Dental Implant Healing Time & Aftercare 

Recovery times from dental implant treatment can differ depending on the following:

  • Individual case
  • Number of teeth affected
  • Patient
  • How the recovery process is managed

Approximately 99% of dental implant procedures are treated under local anesthesia in dental surgery. Sometimes this is in combination with intravenous or oral sedation.

In dental implant placement with little or zero grafting, there is little or no post-surgery discomfort or swelling. Patients can continue life as usual without any pain.

A soft diet for a couple of days and careful brushing of the treated area may be all that is necessary for aftercare. In most cases following dental implant surgery, there is some minor swelling and discomfort and occasionally some bruising that lingers for a few days.

However, these symptoms are well managed by medicine and the post-surgery management the dentist will prescribe. After around seven to ten days, a patient can usually return to their typical diet routine. In some cases, patients may need to stick to a soft diet for up to six weeks following surgery.

If there is a need for any bone or soft tissue grafting during the implant placement, then the swelling is usually more significant. However, the dentist will suggest the most suitable aftercare regime and medicine to keep you comfortable.

How Long Do Dental Implants Last? 

With regular brushing, flossing, and check-ups, a dental implant screw can last a lifetime.

The crown, however, lasts around ten to 15 years before it may need replacing because of wear and tear. However, following excellent dental hygiene practices could extend the life of the crown longer than 15 years.

The location of the dental implant in the mouth is also a factor for predicting its longevity. Implants in the rear of the mouth are used more for chewing. Therefore, they are more likely to wear out quickly than implants located near the front of the mouth.

What are the Risks of Dental Implants?

There is the chance of an implant failing for several reasons. One is if an infection develops (rare) or if the bite has not been correctly adjusted.

Also, clenching or grinding the teeth can place a lot of pressure on the implant. This may lead to bone loss and cause the implant to break or fail.

Poor oral hygiene and a lack of consistent professional care can also lead to dental implant failure. When implants replace lower teeth, a nerve in the jawbone could be injured, resulting in numbness and tingling.

This can be temporary until the nerve heals. Or it can be permanent. X-rays and CT scans help your dentist determine where the nerve is located and reduce the possibility of injury.

There is also the risk of sinus issues if a dental implant fixed in the upper jaw juts into one of your sinus cavities. But, these risks are uncommon.

Single Tooth Implant vs. Dental Bridge

A dental implant offers various advantages over other tooth replacement options. As well as looking and working like a natural tooth, a dental implant can replace one tooth without affecting the health of neighboring teeth.

Another popular treatment for a missing tooth is a dental bridge. A dental bridge requires that adjacent teeth are ground down to support the cemented bridge.

As a dental implant will replace your tooth root, the bone is preserved well. With a dental bridge, some of the bone previously surrounding the tooth will start to deteriorate. A bridge also requires strong anchor teeth or it can compromise additional teeth. 

dental bridge with crowns in upper jaw

A dental implant can be more aesthetically pleasing and easier to keep clean than a bridge in the long term. Gums can recede around a bridge, leaving an apparent defect if the bridge's metal base is seen.

The resorbed bone under the bridge can result in an unattractive smile. Additionally, the cement supporting the bridge in place can wash out. This allows bacteria to decay the teeth that anchor the dental bridge.

However, a dental bridge is significantly cheaper than a single tooth implant.

How Much Does a Single Tooth Implant Cost?

Implants are typically more expensive than other tooth-replacement procedures.

A single dental implant price can vary depending on the area and who is performing the surgery. 

A single dental implant costs between $3,000 and $4,000.

Are Dental Implants Covered by Insurance?

Dental insurance does not usually cover dental implants. Some dental insurances may help cover the implant crown portion.

In many cases, dental insurance views dental implants as an elective treatment even though implants are typically the standard for replacing missing teeth.

Resources

Gupta R, Gupta N, Weber KK. Dental Implants. [Updated 2020 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470448/ 

Al-Quran, Firas A et al. “Single-tooth replacement: factors affecting different prosthetic treatment modalities.” BMC oral health vol. 11 34. 21 Dec. 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3258188/ 

de Lange, G L. “Aesthetic and prosthetic principles for single tooth implant procedures: an overview.” Practical periodontics and aesthetic dentistry : PPAD vol. 7,1 (1995): 51-61, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7670070/ 

Gaviria, Laura et al. “Current trends in dental implants.” Journal of the Korean Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons vol. 40,2 (2014): 50-60, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4028797/ 

Dental implant procedure, Health Direct, https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dental-implant 

van der Wijk, P et al. “The cost of dental implants as compared to that of conventional strategies.” The International journal of oral & maxillofacial implants vol. 13,4 (1998): 546-53, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9714962/ 

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