If you know people who've had dental implants, then you have a basic idea of how these treatments fill gaps. Typically, dentists drill up into the jawbone to make a space for a metal support post to hold a false tooth.
This procedure, known as an endosteal implant, is the most common implanting technique, but it isn't the only one. If you're considering having an implant, your dentist may tell you that you'll be better off with a subperiosteal treatment. What are subperiosteal implants and why does your dentist want you to take this route?
How Subperiosteal Implants Work
Like endosteal implants, subperiosteal procedures use an anchoring attachment to hold a false tooth. They don't, however, use bone as the anchor; they use the gums. When a dentist uses a subperiosteal implant, they put the attachment over the bone rather than in it. This attachment is a frame rather than a post. The frame fits over the bone above the gap but under your gums. Once the attachment is on, your gums heal around it and cover everything but the post that holds the tooth.
When Subperiosteal Implants Are Better
To hold steady, an endosteal implant needs to go into bone that is thick enough to hold the attachment permanently. The problem is, not all people have enough bone to do this. For example, if you've waited a long time to replace a missing tooth, then the bone over the gap might have shrunk; conditions like osteoporosis also affect bone density and strength. If your bone isn't up to the job, the implant attachment won't be held steady and may eventually come out.
While you can get around this problem by having a graft to increase your bone density, this adds time and money to the treatment. You also have no guarantees that the graft will work. Bone density isn't a factor in subperiosteal implants. Your gums take on the anchoring job with this kind of implant, so it doesn't matter how much bone you do or don't have. This is a quick and easy way of having an implant even if your jawbone isn't a good candidate for regular treatment.
If bone density is a concern, then your dentist may simply think that you have a better chance of implant success with a subperiosteal procedure. To find out more about how this kind of implant works, talk to your dentist.