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Implant-supported prostheses

Losing teeth is a common occurrence resulting from accidents, poor dental hygiene or regular wear. In Quebec, up to one million baby boomers have lost all of their teeth. However, there are several effective solutions to help patients suffering from this major health problem recover durable, comfortable dentition.

Missing teeth need to be replaced by artificial teeth to avoid alignment, malocclusion and chewing problems. In addition, missing teeth cause the jawbone to slowly lose density.

There are many options for replacing missing teeth: bridges, partial dentures, full dentures, etc. When possible, dental implants are the ideal solution because they can best reproduce the appearance and comfort of natural teeth.

Implants help stabilize prostheses, rendering them more comfortable, solid and functional for improved speech and chewing.

What is an implant?

An implant is a biocompatible titanium screw inserted into the jawbone to replace a root. It can support an artificial tooth (crown), several teeth (bridge) or all teeth (full dentures). The prostheses can be permanent or removable.

Permanent implant-supported prostheses:

Permanent prostheses cannot be removed by the patient, as they are permanently anchored to the dental implants. Only your dentist can remove them. Depending on how many teeth need to be replaced, an implant can support different types of permanent prostheses:

Single prosthesis:

An artificial tooth (or crown) is secured to the implant, leaving adjacent teeth intact. The artificial tooth looks and functions just like a natural tooth.

Partial denture:

An implant-supported permanent bridge replaces several missing teeth. It is custom-made and permanently secured to two dental implants. With this option, the bridge doesn’t need to be attached to adjoining teeth, which would require removing a layer of tooth enamel.

If your teeth are healthy and your situation allows for it, your dentist may suggest an implant-supported prosthesis, which maintains your natural teeth as much as possible.

Full denture:

Full dentures can also be secured to implants, making them very stable. This option also eliminates pain caused by dentures rubbing on gums, as well as chewing and speech problems. With implants, full dentures can be stable and comfortable.

The number of implants you need depends on specific criteria. For full dentures, four implants are usually enough.

This type of prosthesis is permanent and can only be removed by a dentist. Because full dentures stay in your mouth day and night, they feel like natural teeth. This solution is great for helping patients maintain good self-esteem.

Removable implant-supported prostheses:

Implants can also support removable prostheses. Solidly secured during the day, the prosthesis can be removed at night for cleaning and sleeping. With this option, the prosthesis is both removable and stable thanks to the implants. And, you’ll avoid unwanted movement associated with dentures.

Implants can support partial or full removable dentures, depending on how many teeth you need to replace. Different anchoring systems can be used. The dentist will recommend the option that best suits your needs.

There are two removable prosthesis options:

Removable prosthesis using a snap fastener system

Full dentures or bridges are secured to the implant pillars. As with permanent prostheses, the number of implants needed can vary depending on specific criteria that your dentist will assess. Two to four implants are usually enough. Using a snap fastener system, the pillars are secured to anchors underneath the prosthesis, making removal easy.

Even though the prosthesis isn’t permanently secured, this type of anchoring system is very comfortable, stable and easy to clean. It can improve your quality of life significantly.

Bar-retained removable prosthesis

A retaining bar is another type of anchoring system used to stabilize removable implant-supported prostheses. This system is a good option for the lower jaw. In addition to stimulating the jawbone to prevent resorption, the bar evenly distributes the pressure exerted on implants during chewing, which in turn is more comfortable for your gums. When placed on your upper dental arch, the retaining bar is very comfortable as it completely frees up your palate.

In most cases, four implants are needed to properly secure the titanium retaining bar. The prosthesis attaches to the bar and is immediately stabilized and functional.

Different types of retaining bars can be used, including the U-shaped Dolder bar, milled bar or Paris bar. While they all enable you to easily remove your prosthesis, the dentist will recommend which one best suits your needs.

A bar-retained anchoring system helps patients feel like they have their natural teeth back.

Who can use implant-supported prostheses?

Before dental implants can be installed, the dentist must perform a complete check-up of your mouth and assess your overall health. He or she will check your gums and jawbone to ensure they can support the implants. Otherwise, a bone graft may be needed to increase bone mass.

Implants may be contraindicated if the following applies to you:

  • Insufficient bone mass that cannot be increased by a graft
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Malformation of dental arches
  • Heavy smoking
  • Pregnancy

Installation steps:

The installation process is usually the same for implant-supported permanent and removable prostheses.

  1. A complete dental check-up is performed and x-rays are taken
  2. Surgical phase: One or several implants are installed in the alveolar bone
  3. A temporary prosthesis is installed
  4. Bone integration phase: As tissue heals, it gradually fuses the implant to the bone. This step can take two to four months
  5. Prosthetic phase: After the healing period, the implant is solidly integrated into the bone. The temporary prosthesis is removed and a pillar is installed on the implant. The final prosthesis will be attached to this pillar, which can be secured to the crown, anchors under the bridge or under full dentures. The prosthesis can be permanent or removable
  6. The last step involves carefully adjusting the prosthesis for comfortable and effective occlusion. The results are both attractive and functional

Advantages of implant-supported prostheses

  • Stable: When speaking and chewing
  • Comfortable: No more painful rubbing or pressure points; feel just like natural teeth
  • Attractive: Matches the colour and shape of your teeth for a natural look
  • Durable: Implants can last for many years, even a lifetime, if you practice good oral hygiene and follow your dentist’s recommendations
  • Prevent jawbone resorption
  • Replace missing teeth without damaging adjoining teeth
  • Easy to clean
  • Help improve your confidence and self-esteem

How to care for your prostheses

Caring for implant-supported prostheses is easy. Treat them like your natural teeth with a basic everyday routine. Your dentist will give you all the information you need. Maintenance is similar for both permanent and removable prosthesis. The key to success is regular cleaning and gentle care around the implants.

Biannual check-ups are recommended, during which the dentist will carefully check the condition of your prosthesis and the comfort and stability of your implants.

For more information and advice on how to care for your prostheses, please read Caring for and repairing your prostheses