Your smile is one of the first things that people notice about you, and having a smile you aren’t proud of can be embarrassing and frustrating. One of the ways dental patients are combatting missing, damaged, or problematic teeth are with dental implants.
Dental implants are relatively new and many people are only familiar with the original false teeth standard of dentures. There are some significant differences between dentures and implants, however, and a common question is if you can get dental implants with no teeth like you can with dentures. We’re going to answer that question and many more as we do a deep dive into dental implants and how they work.
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are a type of dental fixture that allows for the placement of dental bridges or dentures easily, securely, and often much more permanently. Dental implants are similar to a double-sided screw, and while one end screws into the jaw bone to become an anchor point, the other side has the interface needed to hold on to false teeth of all types.
The biggest concern with getting dental implants is that someone considering dental implants needs to have extensive imaging done of their jaw and dental bones. This imaging will often be radiographic, such as x-rays, but it can consist of other imaging types as well. This will help the dentist determine if you have enough bone volume and mass to hold the anchors for the fixtures effectively.
Once you have teeth extracted, however, the bone around that site begins to wear down. This means that for those who have lost many teeth over many years, considerable amounts of bone mass may have been lost, which can present its own challenges. Your dentist may determine that you’ll need bone grafts to augment your jaw enough to serve as a secure anchor point for the bone implants.
Can You Get Implants Without Teeth?
One of the main purposes of getting dental implants would be to replace your existing or missing teeth. You can absolutely get implants without teeth, and in fact, most of those who get an implant has already lost the teeth that are being replaced. The primary concern with getting dental implants is that there needs to be enough jaw bone volume to hold the anchors effectively.
This means that those who have no teeth and haven’t had teeth for years may need to face the unique challenges that come with bone loss. Lacking dentition causes the bone of the jaw itself to weaken and reduce in volume, which means that there may need to be additional volume added before being able to install implants that will properly osseointegrate.
The types of implants you might consider would also depend strongly on how many teeth were missing, where they are in relation to each other, and more. There are single-tooth implants, which are used for single teeth, or multiple non-adjacent teeth. The fixed bridge replaces an entire arch of teeth, allowing you to eat what you want. The final option is dentures supported by a dental implant.
Types Of Dental Implants Used To Replace Teeth
If you are looking at the different types of dental implants that you may be able to use to restore your smile, the options can seem similar or even confusing at times. Let’s go over the primary options for those hoping to get missing or damaged teeth replaced easily and permanently.
Single Implant & Crown
Single-tooth implants are commonly used to replace one tooth or multiple teeth in various locations. In rare cases, they are used to replace all teeth. They consist of a single implant that is inserted into the jaw bone surgically and becomes an anchor or root for the new tooth and dental crown.
The process requires that the implant reach osseointegration with the jaw bone so that the anchor is permanent. The implant will serve as the point of attachment for all other dental fixtures that need to be secured in the future. The success of the process requires that there be enough jaw bone volume and gum health to heal from the implantation.
A fixed bridge is an entire arch of teeth, so either your upper teeth or your lower teeth, are all fully replaced with a single piece dental fixture. When all of the teeth in the arch are removed, there will be surgical implantation of at least 4 or as many as 8 dental implants.
These implants will act as the semi-permanent anchor for the entire row of teeth. The procedure time is kept relatively short, and you can have a new smile with as much as 90% of the same functionality. This means patients can still eat the things they love, altering their life as minimally as possible.
If Bone Loss Is Significant There Are Still Options
One of the most common concerns with getting dental implants is making sure there is enough bone mass to set the anchors properly. In some patients, the total bone mass may be lower than what’s required for the dental implant procedure. There is a procedure called a dental bone graft that can lead to enough bone tissue to make implants possible.
Due to age or degenerative diseases, some patients will require a dental bone graft to combat situations of bone loss affecting remaining teeth or necessary procedures. The purpose of the procedure is to add volume as well as density to areas of the jaw that have experienced bone loss.
The bone needed can come from many different sources depending on availability and surgical requirements. It can be harvested from your own body, making it an autogenous graft. There are also tissue banks that can supply similar human tissue from stored supplies, called allografting. Tissue banks exist for animal tissue as well, in surgeries where that is applicable, supplying materials for xenografting. Some facilities will even create synthetic or 3D printed material, during an alloplasty.
All of these options have the potential to add significant volume to your jaw, if your implants may be at risk due to bone loss. No matter how your bone loss occurred, your dental healthcare team will be able to discuss options applicable to your oral health situation. If there is not enough bone to do the dental implants that would restore your life to normal, ask about dental bone grafts.
If you are having a procedure done, such as tooth extraction, bone grafts are common to replace lost volume in the jaw. This is something seen most often when multiple successive teeth are extracted, and there needs to be a jaw there for future procedures. It can also happen when bone loss happens due to periodontal disease.
Don’t Wait Until Your Teeth Are Gone
No matter how many teeth you may be missing, dental implants may be the ideal way to restore your smile. You can be eligible for a dental implant to replace just one missing tooth or a whole mouth of pearly whites. Speak to your dentist about your implant options, and in the meantime be sure you take care of the teeth you have with a solid oral hygiene routine and whitening efforts.