Although it is always preferable to keep our natural teeth healthy, it is sometimes necessary
to remove a tooth. For patients who are missing one or more teeth, or who are facing
extraction of one or more teeth, there are now more options available than ever before.
Replacing missing teeth has traditionally involved placement of fixed (“permanent”) bridges or
removable dentures, either full dentures or partial dentures. Now, however, dental implants are
usually an excellent alternative to traditional procedures.
The basic concept is that an oral surgeon places one or more small metal implants in the jaw,
which are really just replacements for the roots of the missing tooth (or teeth). After a healing
period to allow the bone to adapt to the implant, it is ready for a dental restoration. If there is
just one missing tooth being replaced, the restoration is a crown, just like a crown that would
be made for a natural tooth. A significant advantage to replacing a missing tooth with an implant
is that it is not necessary to cut on the adjacent teeth to have a bridge made.
Another use for implants would be to have the surgeon place two of them so that a fixed
("permanent") bridge can be made, supported by the implants. This would result in replacing
three or more missing teeth.
For patients who are without teeth and in need ofl dentures, implants are an excellent way to
provide stability and much greater comfort and chewing ability than with conventional dentures.
Typically, two to four implants would be placed, then attachments would be placed in the
denture that are basically snaps to hold the denture to the implants. The result is a denture that
does not move nearly as much as a conventional denture, resulting in much better function as
well as comfort.
We refer implant patients to an oral surgeon in Salinas who places the implants and informs
us when the implants are ready for restoration. At that time we have the patient back to our
office for restoration with crowns, bridges, or dentures.