What are the Different Types of Cosmetic Dental Implants?

Kay Paddock

Cosmetic dental implants are a form of prosthetic dentistry used to replace missing teeth. There are three basic types of dental implants: root form, plate form and subperiosteal implants. The type of implant used depends on the condition of the person's jawbone. Most implants are made from titanium because of its ability to fuse with living bone tissue. After the patient heals from the implant surgery, which can take three to six months, an artificial tooth is added at the top of the implanted post.

An illustration of a dental implant with a titanium abutment.
An illustration of a dental implant with a titanium abutment.

Root form dental implants are the most commonly used implant. The post is secured into the jawbone in much the same way a screw is secured into a piece of wood. This implant requires a healthy jawbone that's thick and long enough to handle the screw-like end of the implant. Often, if the jawbone is too narrow for this type, a dentist will perform a procedure known as bone grafting.

Dental implants can brighten and perfect a person's smile.
Dental implants can brighten and perfect a person's smile.

Bone grafting can use a patient's own bone material, bovine or cadaver bone, or a synthetic material. The graft builds up the jawbone and allows enough room for root form dental implants. Bone grafts can fail, however, and recovering from graft surgery can also take months. Plate form cosmetic dental implants are an option when root form implants and grafting won't work.

Plate form implants are flat and long instead of round and thick like root form designs. They can fit inside a much narrower jawbone. Typically, healing from this type of implant also takes three to six months. Some of them are designed to allow the artificial tooth to be attached immediately rather than after the healing period.

If grafting won't work and the jawbone is too narrow even for plate form implants, subperiosteal implants can allow the patient to replace missing teeth permanently. These cosmetic dental implants sit on top of the jawbone rather than in it. They're custom fit to the patient's jaw in a dental lab and surgically implanted beneath the gums. The artificial teeth are usually added right after the gums are stitched.

Some people are born with narrow jawbones that require grafting or the use of thinner plate form cosmetic dental implants. In many cases, however, the jawbone is thin and short because of advanced periodontal disease. This disease can be a major cause of the tooth loss that makes cosmetic dental implants necessary. Missing tooth replacement, especially in the front of the mouth, can give people a more youthful appearance and a better smile. A dental implant can also help keep surrounding teeth from drifting into the gap left by a tooth and allow the person to chew normally.

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