Missing a single tooth is hard enough to deal with. But missing all or most of a row of teeth can turn into a waking nightmare for many patients. For the longest time, dentures were the only way to replace all or most of a row of teeth. Though there were always innovations in the materials used, they all worked in much the same way: a fake gum with fake teeth sits over the natural gum to replace the missing teeth.
Some of these materials fit better, or remained firmly in place for longer, or were more durable. But fundamentally they were all the same basic system.
Luckily now there’s All-on-4.
All-on-4 dental implants are the biggest development in major tooth replacement procedures in decades. The system, as the name states, uses up to 4 dental implants to support a whole or partial denture. What does this mean for patients? Let’s take a quick look.
Firstly, What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants can simply be thought of artificial tooth roots. While there are plenty of restorative options for replacing the crown of a tooth — the part visible above the gum line — only dental implants replace the root of the tooth in the jaw.
There are multiple benefits to this. The biggest two are:
- Maintaining jaw shape and volume. When teeth are removed, the bone around where the root used to be ultimately starts to close in. This can result in teeth on either side “tipping” into the gap left. By filling out the space left by the tooth root, the jaw maintains its shape and functionality.
- Replacing a tooth down to the root means a more stable restoration that more closely mimics the functionality of a real tooth.
A dental implant is surgically inserted into the jaw where a tooth was removed. After several months, the bone has fused around the implant like it would a natural tooth root. Once this has happened, a restoration can be placed on top of the implant. When replacing a single tooth, only a single crown is needed. But when multiple teeth — or even a row of teeth — need to be replaced, it would cost too much time and money to do an implant for each individual tooth.
That’s where All-on-4 comes in.
With the All-on-4 system, an entire row of teeth can be supported on as few as four dental implants. These implants need to be carefully planned and very strategically placed to ensure maximum support and functionality. Lower jaws can even be mounted on just two dental implants in rare cases. The denture will connect to the implants with either a user-removable snap-on/snap-off system, or screwed into place.
Because the denture is mounted onto the implants rather than sitting over the gum, they are much more stable than conventional dentures. This allows wearers to eat more foods than they would feel comfortable eating with the conventional dentures. It also removes the worry of dentures falling out at inopportune moments.