Your smile is worth investing in every single day. That’s why daily routine dental care is so important. Sometimes though, brushing and flossing just isn’t enough to correct or stop tooth loss. Genetics, trauma, and unforeseen circumstances can take their toll on your smile.
While a little plaque isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, missing teeth can be a big problem. Not only can edentulism, or tooth loss, be embarrassing in a social situation, it can actually have long-lasting health implications that will affect you for the rest of your life.
Did you know that when a tooth is lost, or it’s roots damaged by decay, it can actually result in the reduction and atrophy of your underlying jaw bones? Without a tooth’s natural roots to transfer the forces of chewing from your mouth to the underlying bones, your body simply assumes that those underlying bones are no longer necessary and will reabsorb and shrink them down in a process known as resorption. That’s why tooth-replacement therapies that replace what you can see, the actual teeth, as well as the roots below, are so important. Traditional treatments for tooth loss, such as dentures, only replace the part of the teeth and gums that you can see. Dental implants, however, replace the whole natural assembly of a tooth, including its roots, preventing resorption and providing a longer lasting, more aesthetic solution to the problem of tooth loss.
Single Vs. Multi-unit Dental Implants
A single unit dental implant, also known as an individual conventional dental implant, is exactly what it sounds like. It is a single tooth assembly intended to replace a single lost tooth. Mechanically, a single unit implant consists of a metal implant (the roots), an abutment, and an artificial tooth or crown that is visible.
Multi-unit implant therapy relies on a limited number of implants to support multiple artificial teeth. Mechanically, a multiple unit assembly consists of a select number of implants and a bridge prosthetic upon which artificial teeth can be attached. The number of teeth can vary based on the patient's need, from two or more up to as many as a complete arch of 16 teeth for an upper or lower set. For a complete arch of teeth, only four implants are necessary for adequate support. That means a patient who wants a complete, total smile makeover may only need 8 implants total for both arches, for 32 new teeth.
Benefits of Single Unit Dental Implants
Single unit dental implants are the gold-standard of tooth-replacement therapies. The advantages of opting for a single-unit solution are many. Mechanically, single unit implants are the most similar to their natural counterparts not only in aesthetic terms but also in regards to structure, functionality, and mouth feel. Structurally, single unit dental implants behave exactly like natural teeth. The implant itself, typically a dental-grade titanium post, mimics a tooth’s natural roots, which isn't usually the case for other tooth-replacement treatments.
Dentures and bridges, for example, are not structurally embedded into the jaw. This is important for two reasons: an embedded implant allows for structural osseointegration which promotes strength, stability, and resilience, and it allows the transfer of bite forces from the mouth into the jaw bone promoting bone retention. Functionally, individual conventional implants behave just like natural teeth and even require the same basic routine maintenance, such as brushing and flossing, as regular teeth. As a result of their structural and functional similarity to natural teeth, single unit implants also feel the most natural in the mouth.
Since each implanted replacement tooth is individually and separately embedded, they can each flex and move ever so slightly in multiple directions just as your natural teeth would, adding to the more natural feel. Like any gold-standard solution, implants can have higher upfront costs than alternative tooth-replacement solutions. A single tooth can cost between $1,000 to $3,000 or more. However, when an implant procedure is flawlessly executed and allowed to osseointegrate properly, it can last a lifetime. Once the total lifetime costs of replacements and fittings for dentures and bridges are taken into account, as well as the complications resulting from the bone resorption associated with non-implant-based alternatives, individual single unit implants can be a very good long-term solution.
Single Unit Advantages:
Single unit dental implants should be used when a single tooth is missing. This would also be the best solution if you are missing multiple teeth but they are not adjacent to each other, each requiring an implant and implant crown to replace the missing tooth or teeth.
- Structurally superior to non-implant alternatives
- Prevents bone resorption
- Natural feel and functionality
- Best passive fit
- Long-term, lifetime resilience and longevity
- No extra maintenance required beyond routine dental hygiene
- Excellent aesthetics
Benefits of Multi-unit Dental Implants
Unlike single unit dental implants, which are individually and painstakingly implanted by an oral surgeon or prosthodontist, multi-unit dental implants only require a limited number of implants to support a bridge prosthetic upon which multiple teeth can be attached. Utilizing fewer implants can have benefits for many patients including reduced overall costs of the procedure compared to conventional individual implants, reduced recovery times, and a more seamless process overall. Like single unit implants, multi-unit solutions still rely on structural osseointegration of one or more implants for structural stability. This conveys many of the same bone retention and resorption-fighting benefits as individually implanted benefits. While a passive fit is harder to achieve with a multi-unit solution, the right doctor, oral surgeon, or prosthodontist in charge can get results on par with individual single units.
Due to esthetic reasons, your doctor may decide to keep adjacent implant crowns separate, or non-splinted. The reason for this would be better management of your esthetic situation. This would typically happen when two implants are placed for two adjacent teeth such as your upper front two teeth or central incisors. Another reason for keeping adjacent implant crowns separate would be if the patient enjoys flossing. Keeping adjacent implant crowns separate will allow that.
However, if two or more adjacent teeth are missing, and implants have been placed next to each other, it has been shown that splinting the implant crowns has many advantages. The first real advantage is that your appointment for receiving the crown will be much simpler and you will require less chairtime. This is because there are fewer contact areas to be adjusted tween the teeth, whereas the same contact areas between separate crowns can be challenging to adjust and if not perfectly shaped, can result in food packing in the short or long term.
Other reasons for splinting adjacent implants would be for the long-term maintenance due to growth of the jaws. It has been shown that our jaws continue to grow and develop until the day we die, and this remodeling can actually move implants apart, which causes problems and infections of the implant. Other studies have shown that splinting implant crowns can reduce the chances of loose and broken implant screws. Most importantly, the bone around the neck of the implant is more likely to remain intact if your adjacent implant crowns are splinted.
It is important to note that despite all of this available data, most dentists prefer not to splint adjacent implants. Unfortunately, the reason for this is that either the dentist does not have the necessary confidence to create splinted restorations or their dental lab does not possess the required skills.
We recommend that you seek treatment by a dental specialist with additional ADA approved training for optimal results.
Multiple Unit Advantages:
- Structurally superior to non-implant alternatives
- Cost-effective solution for full-mouth reconstruction and complete arch replacement therapies
- Prevents most bone resorption
- Better feel and functionality than dentures
- More resilient than dentures
- Minimal extra maintenance required beyond routine dental hygiene
- Excellent esthetics
Which Should I Get? Single or Multiple Unit Dental Implants?
Single unit implants are the way to go if costs or recovery time is not a concern. It is also the preferred solution for those who want to make a larger upfront investment in money and surgery time for a lifetime of resilient, natural-looking and feeling, and relatively low maintenance teeth. Single unit implant therapy will also be a good solution for those looking to only replace one tooth or a couple of nonadjacent teeth in different locations in the mouth. They are also the preferred treatment for younger patients or those for whom esthetics are particularly important such as models and actors.
Multi-unit implants are a great cost-effective solution for patients looking to replace multiple teeth, especially multiple adjacent teeth. Compared to individual implants, multi-units are more affordable. While still higher priced than other tooth-replacement therapies, such as traditional dentures and conventional bridges (non-implant-supported), multiple unit dental implants also convey better results and last longer than those solutions.
Choosing the Right Dentist Matters: Contact ArtLab Dentistry Today!
Ultimately, no matter which dental implant solution you choose, the most important factor is the prosthodontist in charge. What you need is an experienced, licensed dental specialist like Dr. Reshad in charge of your operation. The right doctor can get you the best results. Contact ArtLab Dentistry today for a consultation.