types of dental implants

Types of Dental Implants and How They Work

Dental implants are the “gold standard” for replacing missing teeth. But did you know that there’s more than just one option when it comes to types of dental implants? And no, we’re not talking about different brands. There are actually various styles and a wide variety of implant restorations on the market.


The types of dental implants that are right for you will depend on things like:


  • Your oral anatomy
  • How many teeth are missing
  • The type of restoration you want
  • Short and long-term goals
  • The skill and experience of your provider
  • Technology available


Although some designs of dental implants are more rare than others, here are the most common “types” or “categories” you may want to learn about before committing to treatment.



Traditional (Types of) Dental Implants


A couple of decades ago, dental implants as we know them were completely revolutionized. What was an extensive invasive procedure became streamlined and modeled after natural tooth anatomy. With that came the era of today’s traditional dental implant.


Nearly all of the dental implants we place at Raleigh Dental Arts are traditional implant designs. They’re made of biocompatible titanium, which stimulates bone integration across their surface (permanently fusing the implant in your mouth.) Titanium is frequently used in other medical procedures, such as joint replacement. In addition to being gentle on your body, it also offers an advantage in that the material is stronger than tooth enamel, which if you didn’t know, is the hardest substance in the entire human body.


Traditional dental implants are minimally invasive and about the width and length of a typical tooth root. They can be used independently or paired with other implants when necessary. Straightforward cases can be completed using only a small amount of local anesthetic.



Mini Dental Implants


One type of dental implant that has gained a tremendous amount of popularity is the “mini” design. Mini dental implants are less than half the size of a traditional implant; they’re both shorter and narrower.


As you might guess, a smaller dental implant will typically be able to offer less reinforcement and support. It doesn’t have the potential to anchor, say, a bridge or larger crown for a prominent tooth that’s missing. But they do have their advantages.


Mini implants are ideal for scenarios where there is little space or very narrow bone in the ridge of the jaw. Either a traditional implant won’t fit there, or there wouldn’t be enough bone to encompass it. Instead, the miniature version can slip straight into that smaller spot without having to change anything around it.


So, what are mini implants used for? Typically stabilizing a removable denture that might otherwise feel too loose during the day. Or in some cases implant dentists will use a mini implant for replacing a smaller tooth, such as the ones at the bottom front part of your mouth.


Zygomatic Dental Implants


Let’s say you don’t have enough bone in your mouth to support dental implants. Over time the bone in the ridge of your “jaw” may have shrunk from past disease, trauma, or aging. But you’re set on getting dental implants so that you can have a permanent fixture in your mouth. Or maybe you know that implants offer the only chance of restoring your smile after a serious injury.


In scenarios like these, specialists can use an elongated version of dental implants called “zygomatic” implants. The zygoma is the arch that most of us refer to as the “cheek bone.” But it’s closely situated near the bone in your upper jaw. That way if there’s not enough bone where your tooth roots used to be, the zygomatic implant can be angled up into the zygomatic arch of bone. When placed at strategic points, these appliances can anchor multi-tooth, full-arch restorations.



Ceramic Types of Dental Implants


Up until this point, all of the implant designs we’ve discussed are made of titanium, which is a silver-colored metal. For some people there is a concern about metal being visible when they smile. Perhaps gum recession is a concern or they have very thin gum tissues that are semi-transparent if there is a darker color underneath them. That’s why implant manufacturers began creating tooth-colored, ceramic implants.


Ceramic implants typically have a slightly different shape than titanium ones, in that there’s no “abutment” to attach to the top of them. Once it’s installed, the “tooth” is placed directly on top of it. This seamless type of design means one consistent color from the top to the bottom of your new tooth. If anything is ever exposed for any reason, you still see tooth-colored appliances.



Categories of Implant Restorations


Now let’s shift away from types of implants to types of implant restorations. The restoration is the “tooth” or prosthesis that sets directly on top of your implant (which serves as a root.) Without your implant restoration, you would still look as if you had a missing tooth.



All-on-4 Implants


When you need to replace all of your teeth at once — and you want a permanent solution — All-on-4 implants are probably the most popular choice. These designs use four strategically placed implants to support a slim, streamlined device that follows the contour of your mouth. It’s like a denture and a dental bridge hybrid. There’s no “plate” over the roof of your mouth.


Since implants are so durable, only four of them are required in most cases for your full arch treatment. Occasionally you may need up to six. Once your All-on-4 appliance is installed, it’s not going anywhere. Only a dentist can remove it.



Single Tooth Implants


Are you only missing one tooth? Then an individual dental implant and crown will be all that you need. The implant sets immediately next to your other teeth, preventing any alteration to their structure. In fact, the implant can add support to help you maintain natural tooth alignment.


Remember, the implant itself is the “root” portion of the tooth. Meaning, our Raleigh implant dentist will need to place a crown on top of it. Each of our implant crowns are color-matched with your other teeth, so that they blend in overall with the rest of your smile.



Types of Dental Implant Bridges


Let’s say you’re missing a few teeth in a row. In a conventional scenario, you might be looking at wearing a removable partial denture. When there are 3-4 missing teeth, it’s just not possible to affix a traditional bridge onto the remaining teeth on either side. However, it is possible to use a pair of implants at each side of the gap to permanently anchor a multi-tooth implant bridge.


Most implant bridges will replace anywhere from 3-4 teeth at a time. If you have more teeth missing, but not enough to need an All-on-4, we can add an implant when necessary. In essence, you could potentially replace more than four teeth at once, but still not need an implant for each respective tooth that’s missing.



Implant-Supported Dentures


Maybe you just want to go “old school” and get traditional dentures. That’s perfectly fine! The issue with dentures is that they rely on a strong seal underneath the “plate” and against your gum tissues. If you have thin bone, it may cause the denture to feel loose or rock around throughout the day. This scenario can lead to additional bone loss, sore spots, and difficulty doing normal things like eating or talking. To prevent that, we can affix small locators on the under-side of your new denture and a corresponding dental implant at that site inside of your mouth.


Implant supported dentures, aka “overdentures” or “snap-on dentures” are removable. They’re not fixed permanently like other type of implant restorations. In fact, they look almost exactly like a regular denture except for the surface that rests against your gums. You simply snap them on and off over the stabilizing implant for added support throughout the day. Messy pastes or adhesives are completely unnecessary. But like a regular denture wearer, you’ll still need to take them out at the end of the day.



Retrofitted Implant Overdentures


Maybe you already got a new pair of dentures and didn’t know that it was an option to stabilize them on top of implants. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to retrofit your prosthesis. If that’s the case, we install about two implants and then have the corresponding abutment retrofitted into your current denture. From there, it snaps in and out as if it was an overdenture to begin with.



Dental Implants in Raleigh


Raleigh Dental Arts is committed to helping you put your best face forward. When you have missing teeth — whether it’s one or all of them — dental implants offer the best solution for restoring your smile. But navigating the process without the help of a trusted provider on your side can seem daunting. We’re here to answer any questions you have and guide you through the restoration process. Our years of experience and reputation for quality care mean that you’re always in great hands.


Contact our Raleigh implant dentists today to reserve an exam and consultation.

Tarun Agarwal

Dr. Tarun Agarwal, DDS is considered one of the top dentists in the country. He is a recognized speaker, author, and dental leader. He has been featured on CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and News 14 Carolina. Dr. Agarwal has been awarded '40 under 40' Business Leaders by the Triangle Business Journal. He is regularly invited to teach other dentists around the world and recently built a training center within the practice dedicated to sharing his expertise. Most importantly he is a loving husband and dedicated father of three wonderful children. His biggest accolade was being voted 'Best Dad in the World' by 2 of his 3 kids.