As a solution to replace one or more missing teeth, dental implants can be life changing. In lieu of getting dentures or bridges, dental implants are an extremely durable, practically permanent solution for replacing teeth.
Essentially dental implants are replacement tooth roots and provide a strong foundation for fixed or removable teeth that are made to look exactly like your natural teeth.
How It Works
The artificial tooth root of a dental implant is usually constructed from titanium – the same biocompatible material that has been used for decades for hip and knee replacement surgeries. The titanium screw, or stud, will be installed into or on the bone where the missing tooth’s root would normally be. Through a process called “osseointegration” the bone fuses with the rough surface of the artificial root and the entire implant becomes permanent.
After the root has become permanent, a small connector post, called an abutment, is attached to the titanium root to securely hold the new tooth. A prosthetic tooth is the fit onto the abutment, and the results resemble a natural tooth being rooted in the jaw.
Advantages of Implants
- Dental implants look and feel like natural teeth and will last a lifetime with good oral hygiene
- Unlike dentures, which run the risk of slipping in your mouth, causing you to slur words, implants come with added confidence in your speech
- Temporary, or removable, dental prosthetics might create some difficulty when chewing. Since dental implants function like natural, healthy teeth, eating becomes normal and painless
While the restoration of missing teeth has many cosmetic benefits, there are many vital health advantages as well.
- Implants may assist in stopping bone loss
- The presence of the durable, biocompatible titanium root restricts the movement of surrounding teeth
- The absence of teeth roots allow the risk of Resorbtion, or jawbone loss, and a dental implant can eliminate that possibility
- The misalignment of your teeth that comes from having a missing tooth brings the likely circumstance off-bite related problems (like TMJ) and a restoration process like dental implants is crucial to avoiding those risks
By far the most beneficial advantage to dental implants is the lack of maintenance required once the procedure is completely finished. Because of their permanence, the reward for getting implants is the freedom of having a new, almost natural tooth.
Types of Implants
As far as your options for the actual replacement-root implant, there are two types available.
- Endosteal implants are the most common type of implant. These screw directly into the jawbone and each implant can hold one or more teeth
- Subperiosteal implants are installed on top of the jaw and have a metal framework of posts for the prosthesis to protrude through the gum – these are for patients who either have low jawbone height, are having all their teeth replaced, or for patients who can’t wear normal dentures.
Are You a Candidate?
Like in most cases of oral surgery, the same precautions for patients who are considering dental implants. Generally, if someone is healthy enough for oral surgery then dental implants should be no problem. However everyone is examined on a case-by-case basis, and the following is taken into consideration:
- A sufficient amount of jawbone are needed to hold the implant, however, since bone loss is common after tooth loss, a bone grafting procedure can help rebuild those tissues
- A healthy set of gums are extremely important for dental implants, so any signs of periodontal disease must be addressed first
- Certain precautions might need to be taken for anyone taking medication or with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or any patient has had radiation therapy to the head or neck area
- Any patient who decides to receive dental implants must commit to having good hygiene and regular dental visits
The procedure for placing dental implants can be broken down into two different steps which will require two or more appointments
- The placement of the implant: This first step involves the insertion of the titanium rod into the jawbone. An opening will be created in the gum tissues at the site of the missing tooth. The titanium rod will be inserted into the jawbone. After the successful insertion of the artificial root, your dentist will close the gum tissues with sutures. The initial healing process should take around a week, and then a few more months will be needed after that in order for the “osseoinegration” of the implant to take place. In this time a temporary tooth restoration may be provided while you wait. While only local anesthesia is required for the surgery, general anesthesia could be administered if you’re feeling anxious.
- The placement of the restorations: when you’re ready for permanent restorations, your dentist will take impressions of your mouth in order to create replacement teeth that will blend in perfectly with your existing, natural teeth. After these replacements are finished another appointment will be set to have them permanently fixed to your implant abutments
After healing is finished, you may notice that there will be a decreased sensation in your new, implanted teeth. Since these dental implants have no natural roots, you will no longer feel heat, cold, or pressure as you would have before the procedure. This sensation is very common and easy to adjust to and with proper care these new implants will look and function as naturally as your original set of teeth!