The primary use of dental implants are to support dental prosthetics. Modern dental implants make use of osseointegration, the biologic process where bone fuses tightly to the surface of specific materials such as titanium and some ceramics. The integration of implant and bone can support physical loads for decades without failure.(pp103–107)
For individual tooth replacement, an implant abutment is first secured to the implant with an abutment screw. A crown (the dental prosthesis) is then connected to the abutment with dental cement, a small screw, or fused with the abutment as one piece during fabrication.(pp211–232) Dental implants, in the same way, can also be used to retain a multiple tooth dental prosthesis either in the form of a fixed bridge or removable dentures.
An implant supported bridge (or fixed denture) is a group of teeth secured to dental implants so the prosthetic cannot be removed by the user. Bridges typically connect to more than one implant and may also connect to teeth as anchor points. Typically the number of teeth will outnumber the anchor points with the teeth that are directly over the implants referred to as abutments and those between abutments referred to as pontics. Implant supported bridges attach to implant abutments in the same way as a single tooth implant replacement. A fixed bridge may replace as few as two teeth (also known as a fixed partial denture) and may extend to replace an entire arch of teeth (also known as a fixed full denture). In both cases, the prosthesis is said to be fixed because it cannot be removed by the denture wearer.
A removable implant supported denture (also an implant supported overdenture(p31)) is a type of dental prosthesis which is not permanently fixed in place. The dental prosthesis can be disconnected from the implant abutments with finger pressure by the wearer. To enable this, the abutment is shaped as a small connector (a button, ball, bar or magnet) which can be connected to analogous adapters in the underside of the dental prosthesis. Facial prosthetics, used to correct facial deformities (e.g. from cancer treatment or injuries) can utilise connections to implants placed in the facial bones. Depending on the situation the implant may be used to retain either a fixed or removable prosthetic that replaces part of the face.
In orthodontics, small diameter dental implants, referred to as Temporary Anchorage Devices (or TADs) can assist tooth movement by creating anchor points from which forces can be generated. For teeth to move, a force must be applied to them in the direction of the desired movement. The force stimulates cells in the periodontal ligament to cause bone remodeling, removing bone in the direction of travel of the tooth and adding it to the space created. In order to generate a force on a tooth, an anchor point (something that will not move) is needed. Since implants do not have a periodontal ligament, and bone remodelling will not be stimulated when tension is applied, they are ideal anchor points in orthodontics. Typically, implants designed for orthodontic movement are small and do not fully osseointegrate, allowing easy removal following treatment.
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