Dental implants have quickly become the restoration of choice for two basic reasons: they effectively restore the lost function of missing teeth and simultaneously rejuvenate the smile with their life-like appearance.
Achieving a life-like appearance, however, isn’t always a simple matter. A restoration in what we dentists call the “Smile Zone” (the upper front area that displays both teeth and the gum line when you smile) requires careful planning and technique to ensure they appear as life-like as possible.
Our first concern is whether there’s enough bone to fully anchor an implant. Bone is a living, dynamic tissue that goes through cycles of dissolving (resorption) and growth. The normal forces of biting and chewing transmit through healthy teeth and stimulate growth in the bone. When the teeth are missing and no longer transmit this pressure, the bone will eventually resorb only and not grow.
Adjacent teeth could also be affected with bone loss if the extraction was difficult and a bone graft was not placed into the extraction socket to preserve bone. This not only puts adjacent teeth at risk of gum and bone loss but can also have implications for the final smile appearance. This bone also supports the triangular tissue between teeth known as papillae which give teeth their arched appearance. If the bone isn’t adequate, there’s less hope that the papillae will regenerate.
With these concerns it’s very important to consider how the implant and crown emerges from the gums in the Smile Zone. Recent developments in implant design are helping in this regard. The design change of the top of the implant re-orients the gum tissues in relation to the implant from vertical to horizontal, which dentists call “platform switching.” This provides greater stabilization where bone mass is limited, and helps create a more aesthetically pleasing result. There are also other techniques, such as surgical tissue grafting of the papillae that can further enhance the final appearance.
Although creating a natural, life-like appearance in the Smile Zone is difficult, it’s not impossible. It’s important first to undergo a complete dental examination and profile, where we can advise you on your best options to achieve a beautiful smile.
If you would like more information on the relation of implants to the aesthetics of your smile, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Implant Aesthetics.”