Following are definitions for words related to dental implant dentistry and tooth restoration.
Abutment – A connector placed on, or built into, the top of a dental implant, and on which your replacement tooth, fixed bridge or overdenture will be placed.
Arch – You have two arches: your complete set of top teeth (the maxillary dental arch) and your complete set of bottom teeth (mandibular dental arch). A dental arch comprises bone and soft tissue shaped like an arc to support the teeth.
Bridge – Multiple replacement teeth that are fixed in place via attachment to dental implants, natural adjacent teeth, or a combination or the two. They "bridge the gap" created by missing teeth and are brushed and cared for at home in place, in your mouth, like natural teeth. There are many types of bridges so if one is being recommended for you, be sure to ask your dental professional how the bridge will be secured.
An “implant-supported” bridge is fixed in place and supported by dental implants in the jawbone. This is the most sturdy and stable type of bridge replacement available. It also stimulates the underlying bone and typically lasts longer than a tooth-supported bridge.
A “tooth-supported” bridge is fixed in place and supported by natural teeth. Placement requires grinding down healthy remaining teeth on either side of those that are missing to support the bridge. Natural bone underneath the bridge is not stimulated as it is with dental implants, and may deteriorate over time, ultimately changing the appearance of your smile and face. A tooth-supported bridge may not last as long as an implant-supported bridge, and it requires more ongoing care and maintenance.
Resin-bonded Bridge (Maryland Bridge) - One or more replacement teeth with wings on each side to attach to healthy, adjacent teeth. This tooth-supported option usually requires some, but less preparing, or grinding down, of other, natural teeth than a tooth-supported bridge. A resin-bonded bridge typically functions better than a removable denture but isn't as strong as fixed bridgework and doesn’t last nearly as long as dental implants because, like other tooth-supported restoration options, the natural teeth must "carry the load" for the replacement teeth.
Crown – The part of your implant-restored tooth that appears like a healthy, white tooth. Tooth-shaped crowns also are used to "cap" existing teeth to restore their strength and natural appearance.
Dental Implant – A cylindrical and/or tapered post, usually made of titanium, that serves as a substitute for the tooth root and provides a strong and sturdy foundation for one or more replacement teeth.
Dentures – Dentures are various appliances used to replace missing teeth. Some are designed to be removed daily at home for cleaning and others can only be removed by an implant dentist. For most wearers, dentures that are not supported by dental implants are not as secure or satisfying in appearance. If a denture is recommended, be sure to ask what type, how it will be attached, and how it should be cleaned and maintained.
A complete denture replaces a complete set of top or bottom teeth. Removable complete dentures that simply cover the gums can shift, cause discomfort, reduce taste and affect speech. See overdenture.
A partial denture is used to replace one or more teeth but not a complete arch. A removable partial denture can shift, cause discomfort, reduce taste and affect speech.
Overdenture is a removable full denture, or complete set of replacement teeth, that is placed on top of dental implants that have been placed in the jawbone. The denture clips onto the implant via a connecting ball or bar attachment. When compared to removable complete dentures, overdentures are considered more stable and patients are usually better able to speak and chew with them.
Osseointegration – Fusing to, or integrating with, bone. Dental implants placed in the bone as substitutes for tooth roots form a secure and stable foundation for replacement teeth when your natural bone grows against the implant through a process called osseointegration. The process takes several months to occur but you may go about your everyday life while it takes place.
Periodontal – Literally “around the tooth” (e.g., periodontal disease is gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss).
Resorb – Dissolve, Deteriorate. Non-implant supported bridges and dentures allow the jawbone underneath the replacement teeth to resorb, or deteriorate. Dental-implanted supported bridges and dentures stimulate and preserve your natural jawbone.
Restoration – The process of partially or fully reconstructing a body part, or the artificial device used in place of the natural body part. With respect to implant dentistry, restoration refers to the process of replacing a missing tooth or teeth, or the actual devices (e.g., replacement tooth or teeth, also called a crown, bridge, denture, etc.) used to do so.