How are implants different from bridges or dentures?

Implants are a natural, permanent replacement for missing teeth that preserves your gums, jawbone, and adjacent teeth. They work by replacing the roots of your missing tooth with a titanium post. Your jawbone then grows into the implant’s threads, creating a solid connection that lasts a lifetime. 

The biggest difference between implants and other options is appearance and bone health. Implants keep your appearance natural and your jawbone healthy. Without an implant, the bone where your teeth used to be will waste away.

Lost a tooth? Compare your options with this handy table.​

Living with lost teeth Implants Bridges Dentures
Holes in your smile Natural tooth replacement Have your smile back, replacement teeth can have a dark cast Have your smile back, fit can feel a little unnatural                         
Bone shrinks from where tooth used to be Preserve bone and gums Bone shrinks from where tooth used to be Bone shrinks from where teeth used to be
Adjacent teeth may shift to fill the gap or become loose Preserve alignment and roots of adjacent teeth Adjacent teeth are put down to hold bridge and carry extra stress What adjacent teeth?
Can be hard to chew and speak Get a solid anchor, as strong as a natural tooth Anchor to adjacent teeth, can collect food and plaque Chewing ability reduced
Permanent loss Permanent repair 5-7 year lifespan 7-10 year lifespan

The anatomy of a dental implant

A dental implant is composed of three pieces of hardware that mimic a natural tooth’s form and function. 

  • A titanium bolt embedded in the bone of your jaw, acting as a root
  • An abutment that screws onto the bolt, connecting your crown and your implant
  • A crown or dentures that mount onto the abutment, acting as your actual tooth

The process of dental implants

It takes longer to put in dental implants than it does to get alternatives like bridges and dentures. Your body needs to heal after each session, so the whole process can take six months or more. But we think it’s worth it; the end result is natural-looking teeth that can chew with the best of them and last a lifetime!

First, say “Aah!”

It’s important for your dentist and oral surgeon to do a thorough study of your mouth, X-rays and all, to evaluate the health of your mouth and adjoining teeth. Any other dental problems (like cavities or infections) will need to be taken care of before we can get started on your implants. 

You may need bone restoration, too

If you lost your tooth (or teeth) to advanced gum disease, or it’s been awhile since they’ve been pulled, your jawbone may be too weak to support implants. To lay a more solid foundation for the implant, an oral surgeon will need to perform a bone graft on the area. Your surgeon will keep a close eye on your progress after, as it can take up to six months for a new bone to grow around the graft. She’ll let you know when you’re finally ready to get your implant! 

Second, it’s time to place the implant

Your dental implant journey starts with a titanium bolt deep into your jaw. If that sounds scary, fear not. It’s a relatively simple procedure, and thanks to local anesthesia, you won’t feel a thing! Once the bolt is placed, your oral surgeon will cover it with a temporary crown.

Take an osseointegration break!

Wait, what? Well, osseointegration is just a fancy word for your jawbone and your new implant cozying up to each other. During osseointegration, your jawbone grows around and into the implant. After 3-6 months, the bolt is as snugly rooted in your jaw as a natural tooth would be. 

Third, dental impressions and crown design

Once your jawbone and new implant have gotten to know each other, your dentist will make a mold of your entire mouth. Then, it’s off to the lab where they’ll create a 3D model of your teeth and craft a permanent crown to mount on your implant. The lab will shape your new crown to blend in naturally with the rest of your teeth.

Finally, our crowning achievement!

Once your implant has completely healed, it’s ready to support your new crown. Your dentist will take special care to install it carefully, it is permanent after all! Now that the implant procedure is complete, you can bite, gnaw, and chew good as new! Plus, your jawbone will stay healthy and strong. 

Missing lots and lots of teeth? Consider implant-secured dentures

When you have chompers mounted on implants, your jawbones stay healthy and you can conquer corn on the cob just like you used to.

Learn about implant dentures