There are three main components to most implant restorations. There is an implant, which is the titanium post that is implanted in the jaw bone and serves as an anchor. It is like a synthetic root of a tooth. Then there is the crown, which is the sparkly white part that you chew with. Then there is a third part called an abutment.
The abutment serves to connect the implant to the crown. It is often the most confusing part for patients who understand that you need an implant to replace a root and a crown to replace a tooth. So why do we need an abutment? These days most implants are place into the bone slightly below flush with the top of the bone. Then the gums are allowed to grow over the implant or around a healing color. The abutment passes through the gums and connects the implant with the crown. Implants are shaped like screws and have threads on the outside but they also have threads on the inside. These internal threads allow us to screw the abutment into the inside of the implant. This connects the anchor - the implant - with the restoration - the crown.
There are different types of abutments for different restorations. For example, a single tooth replacement probably has a standard (or stock) abutment, whereas a hybrid denture (a type of bridge used to replace a full arch of teeth) probably uses a multiunit abutment. Sometimes we can even create custom abutments (sometimes called patient specific abutments) that are created for your specific condition. These are often used in situations where the implant can't be placed in the ideal position because of a bone deficiency. Almost all implants require some type of abutment to be restored (have teeth placed on them).
Do you have any questions? Any other topics you'd like me to address on this blog? Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll either respond with an email or with another blog post.
Jonathan Geleris, DDS, FICOI
Disclaimer and disclosures: I'm a dentist who performs dental implant treatments, and general dentistry in Walnut Creek, California. I don't work for any dental companies (other than my practice). Nobody pays me to write this. As much as possible, I hope to present factual information supported by solid science, however, humans are complex, and the science in this field is constantly evolving. Some of what I present may be based on my opinion.