Up until recently, the best options for dealing with a lost tooth were dentures or bridges. While both options work fine for millions of people, they are less natural than real teeth and for some people can lead to discomfort or a lack of confidence. Dental implants offer a permanent alternative for missing teeth. Implants are not intended to be removed and they function just as real teeth would. In fact, many patients who receive dental implants can barely tell the difference between the implant and their natural teeth.
If you are considering having this procedure done, then you have likely run across the terms "endosteal" and "subperiosteal." These are the two most common types of dental implants, and there are specific reasons why you may want to choose one over the other.
Some Terminology: Bone Density
Before learning about the two types of dental implants, it is important to understand what bone density is and how it relates to this procedure. Put simply, bone density is the amount of 'stuff' contained within a certain amount of bone. Specifically, it is the mineral mass per volume of bone. In general, higher bone density means stronger bones. Low bone density is also associated with osteoporosis and can lead to a greater risk of bone fractures or breaks. Since dental implants sit in or on your jawbone, bone density is the greatest determining factor of whether you are a good candidate for implants and which type will work best for you.
Subperiosteal implants are commonly referred to as "on the bone" implants. This means that the majority of implant is not installed within the jawbone, but rather onto a specially fitted frame. The frame is fitted directly on the bone in the first part of the procedure. Once the gum has healed around the frame, you will return for another visit where your dentist will check that the area has healed correctly before attaching your new tooth.
Subperiosteal implants are primarily used in two situations: when bone density is too low to support an endosteal implant or if multiple teeth in the same area need to be replaced.
Unlike subperiosteal implants, endosteal implants are drilled directly into the jawbone. For this to be successful, your jawbone must have sufficient bone density to support the posts. In most cases, an endosteal implant holds just a single tooth. If multiple teeth are being replaced, each one will require its own implant. Endosteal implants are generally not suitable if multiple teeth need to be replaced in the same area, and often dentists will choose to use subperiosteal implants instead.