Implants are like crowns, except that the first stage is placement of a titanium root form in the bone, after which the bone grows into the titanium root for several weeks. When the implant root is stabilized, a machined post is screwed down with a cute little torque wrench (calibrated in Newton-centimeters) and an impression is taken of the post in the same fashion as when doing a crown. The rest of the procedure is the same as for a regular crown, or a bridge if more than one implant is involved. (Some implant crowns are done using the Cerec method.)
Implants can’t always be done, since they require enough bone to stabilize the titanium root. They have the advantage of not requiring any teeth be cut back for crowns, but if the adjacent teeth already have crowns—particularly old crowns that will need replacing soon—a bridge is frequently a better choice. The cost of a typical single tooth implant relative to a bridge is typically about 65% (back tooth) to 130% (front tooth.
Mini-implants are a relatively new clinical procedure; they are used to help stabilize dentures. Typically they are done for the lower denture only, since that tends to float around a lot. The cost is less than traditional implants, about $2500 for several implants and modifications to an existing lower denture
Here are some photographs of one of our patients who has a set of the mini-implants (warning, fairly large file size). You can see the five implants, as well as how his lower denture has been modified to snap onto the implants.
Norm says they work great, he can eat pretty much anything he wants. He thinks they’re the best thing since the invention of peanut butter–which, by the way, he can now eat just fine thanks to his implants