A dental implant is a procedure done by dentists to replace a lost or broken tooth with an artificial one that will function and have the aesthetics of a natural tooth.
Not all dental implants are the same, however. While the general idea is to replace the lost natural structures with false ones that look and function the same as the other real teeth, how dentists accomplish this feat is done usually with one of two ways.
Before the procedure, it is sometimes necessary to do a bone graft to allow enough room in the jawbone for the process to set correctly, but in general, there are two types of dental implants. These are referred to as endosteal and subperiosteal implants.
Endosteal implants are the most commonly used type of implant and involve putting the implant directly into the jawbone of the patient. During this procedure, the gums are cut open to expose the jawbone underneath. A hole is drilled inside the jawbone, and a titanium screw is placed in this hole (this is what is created to mimic that of a tooth root).
The jawbone is then given time to heal while new bone forms around the post. After some time, a platform (abutment) is then installed and the false tooth itself is placed on top of this platform. Most patients have a sufficient enough jawbone for this procedure to be chosen and it has a very high rate of success.
This type of procedure is much less common and is chosen for patients who don’t have a strong enough jawbone to have a hole drilled into it and don’t want to undergo reconstructive surgery to make the jawbone strong enough. Instead of drilling a hole and placing a screw inside, in subperiosteal implants a metal framework is installed under the gums but above the jawbone. Small screws protrude from this metal framework and function as the base on which the oral surgeon will attach the implant to. Sometimes, these types of implants are chosen for people who are missing several teeth in a row, so they don’t have to have several holes drilled into their jawbone. While more complicated and requires more gum tissue to be manipulated, this procedure is typically very successful with low rates of infection or other complications.
Essentially the differences between the two implants are that one (endosteal) is placed directly into the jawbone whereas the other (subperiosteal) is positioned above the jawbone. The dentist will choose which is a better fit for the patient. Endosteal implants are extremely strong and firm and are a perfect choice for replacing a single tooth on an otherwise orally healthy person. Subperiosteal implants function more like a saddle on which the tooth to rest on; they are a better choice for people who are having multiple teeth installed at once or who have a jawbone that won’t be able to withstand the stress associated with the endosteal procedure.
In the end, both procedures are more or less equally as effective, but the endosteal process is considered to be a more straightforward procedure to perform and recover from.
Be sure to talk to your dentist about single dental implants vs. dental bridges (which can replace two or more teeth that sit together in the mouth at once). There are also different materials that can be used during the procedure, which can either drop or heighten your overall bill. Talk to your dentist about what process will be best for you and your smile.