A dental implant is an entire tooth (crown and root) replacement. Dental implants are considered the ideal treatment to replace a missing tooth and are made up of three parts: the dental implant, the implant abutment, and the implant crown.
The piece called the dental implant is a titanium or zirconia “tooth root” that is placed by a dental surgeon. The dental surgeon places the implant into the same position where your root used to be. The dental implant is allowed to settle in (integrate) for a few months after the procedure. During this integration period, the bone grows around the implant to make it stable. Once the implant is stable, it’s ready for your dentist to replace the missing crown of the tooth.
Using impressions or digital scanning technology, your dental surgeon, dentist and lab technician work together to make the implant abutment and implant crown. The implant abutment connects to the dental implant and acts as the support on which the implant crown sits. The abutment connects the root to the crown of the new tooth. Once the abutment is in place, your dentist fits and places a crown. Once the crown is seated, your missing tooth is fully restored.
The main benefit of an implant over a bridge is the preservation of your teeth adjacent to the missing tooth. A bridge requires those teeth to be whittled down in order to fit the part of the bridge that sits over those teeth. This procedure is significantly invasive to your teeth, and if those teeth were healthy, to begin with, the bridge procedure damages them. If there’s no other alternative for you, having the bridge is usually a better option than having the space left by the missing tooth. In that case, it’s worth the effort to find a dentist who practices minimally-invasive dentistry using current technology.