Dental Implant Parts
As with any medical procedure, being knowledgeable about the treatment ahead of time allows patients to make informed decisions regarding their care. Patients considering dental implants may be curious about the implants themselves as well as the procedure to place them. This article will discuss the various components of a dental implant and the stages of the implant procedure.
What are the Parts of a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is comprised of the fixture (or body), the abutment, and the prosthesis (crown or denture).
- Fixture: A small, screw-shaped device, the implant (called the fixture) is placed under the gums. The oral surgeon drills small holes where the missing tooth roots were, and the fixture is implanted into the jawbone. The fixture serves as the implant’s “roots”. While the patient heals, a process called osseointegration occurs where the fixture permanently fuses with the jawbone. Made of titanium, the fixture is lightweight, extremely durable, and because it is biocompatible, the human body rarely rejects it. Choice of material is important as it increases the chances of successful fusion without risking corrosion.
- Abutment: The fixture lies entirely under the gumline so an extender is needed to attach it to the prosthesis. Called the abutment, this connector is a small screw extending at or above the gumline to support the false tooth. Abutments can be a single integrated unit or separate from the fixture and can made of metal or tooth-colored material. To allow ample time for the fixture to settle and heal, a separate abutment is generally not attached until after osseointegration occurs. In some cases, the dentist may opt to place the fixture, abutment, and a temporary prosthesis during the same procedure.
- Prosthesis: Looking and functioning like a real tooth, the prosthesis is the visible portion of the restoration that attaches to the abutment. The prosthesis can be made from ceramic or porcelain and can be either cemented onto the abutment or screwed into place.
Steps in the Dental Implant Process
- Step One: During a short surgical procedure, performed while the patient is under local anesthesia, the fixture is placed in the gum area of a missing tooth. After making a small incision into the gums, a hole is drilled into the jawbone where the fixture is implanted. The gums are then sutured and left to heal while osseointegration occurs.
- Step Two: Once fully stabilized and fused with the jawbone, the gums are again opened up and the abutment is cemented or screwed into place. Healing is then again needed during which a temporary crown will be attached.
- Step Three: After the abutment has fully healed, the final step is placing the permanent prosthesis marking the completion of the restoration. Individual experiences will vary based on the number of implants needed, type of implant used, and healing time but in general, it can take six to nine months to complete the entire procedure. While dental implants are not a quick fix for missing teeth, they offer a permanent solution that look and function much like a natural tooth.