Dental implants are quickly becoming the new standard in dental care for replacing missing teeth. In cases where a single tooth is missing and the rest of the dentition is in good shape, a dental implant is clearly the ideal choice. In more complex cases where multiple teeth are missing, dental implants still come into play, but more factors must be considered when choosing implants to ensure the right choice is being made. Dental implants can also be combined with complete dentures, providing them with an extra source of retention and stability.
In general, a dental implant is usually comprised of three components. A titanium screw placed into the bone, a specialized attachment called an abutment, that screws into the implant, and a crown or bridge that will be either cemented or screwed onto the abutment. As no natural tooth is involved, implants have the potential to last a life time. There is no chance for cavities, and they are more resistant to gum disease. However, like all dental products, problems can still occur so regular maintenance is required.
Dental implants require good quality bone to anchor into and a skilled surgeon to place the implant. In cases where there is not enough bone to place an implant, bone grafting can be done. Dr. Schau has seen a significantly higher rate of implant failure when artificial or foreign bone is used for bone grafting. Due to this, Dr. Schau only recommends using your own bone, harvested from elsewhere in the body, for doing bone grafts. He also works closely with skilled surgeons for any grafting procedures and placement of the implant itself. He then takes the case from there doing the restorative work on the implant to make it functional.
In some cases, to help coordinate treatment and final placement of the implant, a surgical template and/or radiographic guide is made. These will often be the same appliance, but in some cases be two separate appliances. Especially in cases for multiple implants, or cases where the bone is thin and bone grafting may be required, these guides along with 3-D scans, can be essential for the overall process and long term success of the case.