This four-part article series explains the meaning to some rudimentary dental implant terminology that patients might come across on their journey to getting new teeth.
Welcome back to our four-part article series on some rudimentary terminology you might like to know if you’re in need of new teeth in one day! In our previous article installment, the first of the series, we opened with a look at some of the most important concepts to become familiar with:
Dental implants are tiny titanium screws that are placed in the jawbone and are used to support a replacement tooth, which can either be a dental crown (in the case of a single tooth replacement) or a fixed bridge (as in the case of full arch restoration). An abutment or “collar” is the component that attaches the visible replacement tooth to the dental implant.
Let’s continue with a definition of some of the older, more conventional teeth replacement technologies that are still available today...
Dental Terminology You Might Like to Know!
Removable Dentures: Removable dentures (see image above), commonly known as “false teeth”, are the conventional teeth replacement option for patients who are in need of new teeth. They resemble a complete set of teeth and gums, but are far bulkier than fixed bridges because they rely on their mass and the support of the gums and oral structures to keep them stabilized in the mouth. Without anything “permanent” holding dentures in place - like dental implants - removable dentures are free to move around and, in extreme cases, can even fall out. They can often be uncomfortable and insecure, as well as needing to be removed for cleaning and at nighttime.
Removable dentures only replace the visible portion of the missing teeth, the crowns, and not the roots. This facilitates the bone that formerly surrounded the tooth roots to atrophy and waste away (see atrophy below).
Non-Implant Supported Dental Bridge: The conventional approach to replacing one or two adjacent missing teeth is to file down the neighboring healthy teeth and use them to support a “bridge” or linked series of replacement dental crowns as is shown in the picture below.
The two adjacent teeth are “prepared” in order to support the middle crown, which is one of the reasons dental implants are considered a more advantageous solution to missing teeth (they don’t require the involvement of adjacent healthy teeth). While non-implant supported crowns offer aesthetic solutions, they do not replace the root of the missing tooth and, similarly to removable dentures, this can lead to atrophy of the underlying jawbone.
Alveolar Atrophy: The alveolus is the part of the jawbone that houses the teeth. When teeth are lost, this bone typically disappears as it becomes resorbed by the jaw. Similar to the muscles in your body, bone tissue requires stimulation or “exercise” to stay healthy. The tooth roots are responsible for keeping the jawbone stimulated and they do this by transmitting the forces associated with eating (grinding, chewing and incising) into the underlying bone tissue. When the roots of the teeth are lost, so too is this stimulation and as a result, the bone that formerly encased the tooth roots (the alveolus) atrophies and disappears.
The result of bone loss has a widespread impact upon one’s oral health: it often upsets the stability of the neighboring teeth and can even cause further tooth loss. Bone loss also puts a patient’s candidacy for dental implants in jeopardy, because implants, just like natural teeth, require adequate bone volume in order to remain rooted in the jaw.
Replacing missing teeth with conventional technologies, such as traditional bridges and removable dentures, is ineffective in preventing alveolar atrophy because they only replace the visible tooth structure and not the roots. This is why dentures need replacing every few years or so - because they fail to fit the changing shape of the jawbone. This is also why dental healthcare specialists recommend dental implants to patients in need of new teeth.
Stay Tuned for Part 3
To learn more about dental implants and oral health terminology, stay tuned for the third installment of this four-part article series.