If you are looking to replace one missing tooth, it’s easy to answer this question: you need one implant to replace one missing tooth. But if you are trying to replace multiple teeth, or even a full arch of teeth, the question gets more complicated. And if you are looking at different dental implant quotes, you might see that they recommend different numbers of implants.
Here are several of the factors we have to weigh in deciding the best number of implants to replace your teeth.
Are All the Missing Teeth Together?
If all the teeth you’re missing are close by each other, we can usually get away with fewer implants. A bridge replacing three teeth together might need just two implants. A bridge replacing five teeth together might need just three implants. But if you had those five teeth in two separate places, you might need four implants.
And, of course, if we’re replacing an entire arch of teeth, we might be able to get away with just four implants (more on this later).
How Big Are the Implants?
Dental implants are not one size fits all. They come in many different sizes, including different lengths and widths. Each size of implant can support a certain amount of force. So we might recommend using fewer larger implants or using more smaller implants.
But remember that the size of implants we use is limited by your jawbone. We can only put in implants that will be supported by the depth and width of your bone. Sometimes, a bone graft can be used to make more room for implants, but other times we might have to just rely on more smaller implants.
What Type of Function Do You Want?
When dental implants support restorations the way your root supports your tooth, they have to bear a lot of force. That means we need more implants to stand the burden. But not all restorations are designed that way.
Sometimes, people with implant dentures just want the implants to hold the denture in place. This keeps the implant from sliding or coming out during everyday activities, including talking, sneezing, or laughing.
But the denture is actually resting on and supported by the gums. This has some drawbacks–you don’t improve your bite force as much as if you actually support the denture with implants–but it does mean we can get away with fewer implants. As little as two for a full denture.
How Many Teeth Do You Want?
One way to reduce the number of implants you need is to reduce the number of replacement teeth. Many of the replace teeth with just four implants systems do this. The second molars are good for chewing, but they aren’t strictly necessary. They also aren’t as readily visible as your other teeth. So we can decide not to replace them to reduce the number of implants you need.
But remember: there are always tradeoffs. Not replacing these teeth will reduce the support your replacement teeth give to your jaw. This can accelerate the appearance of facial aging as it causes more skin to sag and fold. The missing back teeth might also be visible in some situations, such as when you’re talking loud. And you will experience a decrease in chewing effectiveness.
Matching Your Implants to Your Goals
There is no one right answer to this question. The best number of dental implants for you depends on your personal situation. First, during your consultation, we will listen to your goals for the implant procedure. Then we will design an optimal treatment for you.