Dental Implants FAQ Hampton Roads, VA

Are dental implants the same as teeth?

Implants are the best alternative to missing natural teeth, but they are not exactly the same as teeth. When replacing missing teeth, properly and carefully planned, placed, and restored implant crowns, bridges, and dentures are a wonderful solution, but some things need to be considered.

For instance, while natural teeth can be resilient to small problems with gum and bone health, implants are not as resilient. Therefore, extreme care must be taken by an advanced restorative dentist and surgeon to plan and place implants correctly. In addition, the patient will need to be diligent and care for them properly.

Natural teeth have a ligament around them, while implants do not, so chewing and grinding forces must be carefully planned and managed for implants to be successful. This is another reason why choosing an implant team with advanced training and backgrounds in not only implant dentistry, but occlusion is vital for implant success.

Natural teeth, if healthy, will usually have a nice gum “frame” around the tooth to give it a natural appearance. Implants, even when healthy, will not have the same frame or margin around the tooth. Dr. Harper and Dr. Anderson are well versed in the careful planning and modern technology and techniques that are designed to give the best gum shape, health, and appearance around implant crowns.

How is your implant crown made?

A single tooth restored with an implant consists of an implant “body”, a crown, and an abutment that connects the crown to the implant. There are many different versions of the abutment, including screw-retained, cement-retained, stock, and custom. In almost every case, in our office, the abutment is custom. Stock abutments are used by many dentists and are pushed (or promoted) by implant manufacturers to “simplify” the implant crown process.

However, in our office, we see many stock abutments previously placed by other providers that eventually cause bone loss, implant failure, or the crowns break. If the implant is still okay, then we change the abutment to a custom abutment, remake an appropriate crown, and verify that all forces are evenly distributed. If not, we have to go a step further to remove the implant and determine if another can be placed correctly.

Even custom abutments must be carefully made to the specifics of that implant system and must fit the implant well. Many custom abutments are not made correctly by some providers. If not done carefully and by someone with extensive experience and training, the custom abutment may not fit the implant well and can result in many problems.

Dr. Harper is in constant contact with the labs he chooses and has a very close, professional relationship with both the individual ceramist creating the crown, as well as, the people in charge. He does not choose the lab just because it can offer the cheapest price. This is very important because in implant dentistry, you get what you pay for and cutting corners can result in expensive and painful outcomes.

What Lab will make your crown, bridge or denture?

This question is a big part of future implant success. The restoring dentist chooses the lab, and the lab must have advanced knowledge of implant design and structure, as well as have a strong background in bite forces. The lab is an extension of the restoring dentist, and they both must have seamless communication and common standards.

How well does your dentist know their lab? Is the lab nearby or even in this country? Does the restoring dentist know exactly who in the lab is working on your case, and who is in charge?

Many Americans do not realize that a large percentage of dental lab work is performed overseas or in huge factory-style labs around the country. In fact, many dentists do not realize that their dental lab, that they “trust”, actually outsources many or all of the steps required in making components of an implant crown or restoration.

In other cases, the implant crown is made by a very large factory-style lab that has little to no personal relationship with the dentist. Saving money and cutting costs usually leads to choosing these “cheaper” or “cost-effective” labs, but there is a big gamble in the future success of the implant and implant crown.

The crown, bridge, or denture and associated components must be properly and accurately designed and produced to give your implant the best chance for success. We have close professional relationships with our labs and those individuals producing your crown, bridge, or denture and can attest to their highest standards.

Do dental implants require any special maintenance?

Dental implants are designed to function like natural teeth. Maintaining dental implants require the same oral hygiene habits that your natural teeth depend on. Twice daily brushing and flossing and visiting the dentist for oral health check-ups at least twice a year are essential for maintaining the function and health of your dental implant. It is important to keep the gum and bone tissue healthy to support the dental implant long term.