Interested in Multiple Dental Implants? Comparing Splinted and Free-Standing Restorations


If you are interested in replacing multiple teeth in your mouth or replacing compromised teeth with restorations, you may be looking at dental implants. A lot of patients like implants because they are a permanent solution and look like natural teeth.

The implant itself is made up of three parts, the fixture/post, the abutment, and the replacement crown. Some implant crowns are free-standing while others are splinted. Take a look at the difference between the two and which route would be best for your needs.

What's the Difference Between Splinted and Free-Standing Implants?

While both free-standing implants and splinted implants look like your natural teeth, the main difference between the two is that splinted implants don't have clear interproximal spaces. The material, like a porcelain, is fused between the crowns in splinted implants. With free-standing implants, each crown is its own individual unit, so you could slide a piece of floss between each unit.

Although patients may initially balk at splinted implants because they prefer individualized teeth, there are pros and cons of both options.

What's the Goal of Splinted Implants?

The main goal of splinted implants is to distribute chewing forces over a larger surface area — especially if you don't have a lot of jaw bone to begin with to take on this stress. In fact, one study found that splinted crowns were able to reduce the stress placed on an implant, abutment, and jaw bone.

Also, if you already have short tooth roots or loose teeth next to your implants, then these natural teeth need to be protected from excessive forces. Mobile teeth can be caused by bone loss, periodontal disease, or trauma. If you opt for free-standing implants, then they may not distribute forces well, which could damage loose teeth.

If you have to have short fixtures in your jaw bone, then splinted implants can be helpful since they minimize stress and maximize stability; you'll have a better chance of maintaining your bone density and improving your implant success rates.

When Are Free-Standing Implants a Better Idea?

While splinted implants do a good job distributing forces, they are ironically not great for people with bruxism. Instead of distributing chewing forces, the entire restoration can become rigid. With free-standing implants, your teeth will be better able to individually respond to bruxism forces. However, if you still want a splinted implant, then your doctor could set you up with a mouth-guard to counteract bruxism.

Do you have trouble flossing and brushing? If so, then splinted implants aren't a good idea. Because splinted implants have fused crowns, you'll have to use specialized tools to keep interproximal spaces clean. Your dentist can certainly teach you how to use these tools, but if you don't feel like you will be compliant, then it may be better to get free-standing implants so that you can stick to good hygiene habits you’re more familiar with.

What Other Considerations Are There When Making a Choice?

There are different brands of dental implants, and some brands work better with splints while others work better with single-unit implants. So if your dentist has a preference for a certain brand, then he or she may encourage you one way or the other. For instance, if an implant has an external hexagonal connection, then your dentist may prefer a splinted implant to reduce excessive forces on the implant's screw.

Another consideration is the long-term prognosis of any structurally compromised teeth you may have. Instead of needing a splinted implant, your dentist may want to use a single-unit implant and then use a bonded splint on any natural teeth that are mobile.

There's many different scenarios to consider, so reach out to us at Airport Road Dental Associates, PC, for more information on dental implants.