One of the questions we get asked all the time at our dental implant consultations is how do you connect the dental implant to a “tooth” and make it look like a part of your mouth?
It’s challenging to understand and visualize because we can’t see in our own mouths. Hopefully, this brief article will help with clarity of how it’s achieved.
Let’s start with some basic terminology. The “dental implant” is a replacement for the root of a tooth. It is placed within the jaw bone. The “implant crown” is the replacement for the visual tooth that you see in the mouth. It is a separate structure that must connect to the dental implant.
The external surface of the dental implant is threaded and looks much like a common screw (but has been carefully and meticulously designed with millions of dollars and years of testing and research). The exterior surface’s job is to engage the bone and stimulate a fusion or attachment to bone cells so that the implant can one day be secure enough to tolerate the chewing load that the tooth will receive. The internal surface of the implant is partially hollowed out in a very specific design such that a smaller screw can be screwed into the implant precisely and with long term stability. The tooth can utilize this by being connected to a metal transition piece called an “abutment” that houses that little screw. The photos help to illustrate this well.
The implant crown is bonded (or glued) to the metal abutment (that holds that small screw) with dental cement, and then that complex is inserted onto the dental implant using that small screw. Often, there is a small access hole in the tooth to aid in tightening or loosening the implant tooth. These holes are easily concealed by placing a small tooth colored filling that is invisible to anyone but the dentist.
The implant crown is a custom made tooth created from porcelain made to match the neighboring teeth in color, shape, and texture. It is designed to have the most ideal and secure bite with the teeth it will chew against. When done properly, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between it and your natural teeth.