WHAT ARE DENTAL IMPLANTS?
A dental implant is a metal post that functions as a replacement tooth root. Once your dentist surgically places the implant in the bone of the jaw, new bone forms around the implant to firmly hold it in place. Implants can also support dental restorations like crowns and bridges, just like regular teeth. They can even support full or partial dentures and give them more stability in the mouth.
Dentists place implants in bone below the gums, so they aren’t normally visible in the mouth. In order to attach things like crowns, bridges, and dentures, your dentist will have to install connector pieces called “abutments” as well. The abutment attaches to the implant and the restoration attaches to the abutment(s).
Although dental implants are very durable and can function for a long time (often forever!), you’ll still want to keep the gums around the implant restorations clean and bacteria-free. Just like you can lose natural teeth due to periodontal disease, your dentist may need to remove an implant if there’s an infection around it.
Crowns and other implant-supported restorations and prostheses are often indistinguishable from natural teeth. The implant and abutment themselves are functionally invisible once your dentist attaches the replacement tooth. Implant are a great way to reestablish the original appearance and function of your teeth.
WHEN WOULD I NEED A DENTAL IMPLANT?
Dentists place implants as anchors for artificial teeth. You would choose to have one placed if you had a tooth extracted and wanted it replaced. Like other artificial tooth options, you’ll never “need” a dental implants, but they’re an attractive alternative to other methods.
When you want to have an artificial tooth replace a missing one, ask your dentist about dental implants. Gum disease, poor dental hygiene, and smoking may affect your ability to be a candidate for dental implants. Unfortunately, few dental insurers cover implants. Ask your dental insurer if they cover dental implants, or even a portion of them.
WHY SHOULD I CHOOSE DENTAL IMPLANTS?
Dental implants aren’t for everyone, but they have some definite advantages over other tooth replacement options. Once healing occurs, implants are fused to your bone, so they’re often more durable than other replacement options, including bridges.
Dental implants don’t require using healthy teeth to support the replacement tooth. To install a dental bridge, the teeth on either side of the space need to be reduced in size with a dental drill. If those teeth are otherwise healthy with no need to be restored on their own, it’s probably better to have an implant and implant-supported crown instead. Implants simply fit into the space where the old tooth was. Implants do not disrupt the health and regular function of other teeth in the mouth, the way other tooth replacement options can.
If you need an artificial tooth installed, you should consider dental implants if you:
- Don’t mind paying more for a more reliable treatment option
- Want something that’s as easy as a natural tooth to maintain and keep clean
- Want to restore your natural smile as much as possible
- Don’t want to drill on or reduce any other teeth in your mouth
- Want your replacement tooth/teeth to be as sturdy as possible
If you’re interested in dental implants, you should ask your dentist about them during your next appointment. They’ll be able to tell you everything you need to know about implants and whether they’re right for you.
HOW DO DENTISTS PLACE DENTAL IMPLANTS?
Dental implant placement is a surgical procedure in which the dentist makes an incision in the gums and a hole in the bone that resembles a tooth socket. The specific process could vary based on many factors, but in general we follow these steps:
1. First, you’ll need to come in for a very comprehensive examination. During this exam, we’ll take x-rays and make impressions of the space where you would like the dental implant. This info will help us determine if your jawbone could support a dental implant. If we determine that an implant is a good option for you, we’ll schedule your implant placement appointment at this time.
2. During the appointment, we’ll use a local anesthesia to numb the area where we place the dental implant. Most patients report that implant placement surgery is no more uncomfortable afterward than an extraction.
3. After the area is ready, the placement of the implant begins. The dentist uses a guide prepared after your initial appointment to ensure accurate and safe implant placement. First, we make an incision in the gums and temporarily move them away to expose the jawbone.
4. The dentist uses high-precision surgical drills to create a series of pilot holes in the jawbone.
5. After drilling the pilot holes, the dentist inserts the implant by screwing it into place with a torque wrench. Torque is applied very carefully and consistently to avoid damaging the surrounding bone.
6. At this point, the dentist affixes a temporary “cover screw” over the abutment opening. We can’t place the artificial tooth itself until the bone heals and fuses – or “osseointegrates” – with the implant. In many cases involving a single tooth, we can have a small, temporary oral appliance made that has a single false tooth on it. Think of an orthodontic retainer with a replacement tooth to fill the gap. It’s necessary because it takes several months for osseointegration to occur.
7. Once the implant is fully fused with the jawbone, we can finally place the abutment. After placing the abutment, we’ll have to wait another two or three weeks for your gums to heal around it before proceeding.
8. After the gums heal, we’ll make impressions of your mouth and teeth. We’ll use these impressions to construct your artificial tooth or teeth.
9. After re-confirming that your jawbone and gums are healthy enough, the dentist will install the artificial tooth. When the procedure is finished, the artificial tooth is usually indistinguishable from a natural tooth.
10. Finally, we’ll want to schedule a post-op check-up with you a couple weeks after receiving your implant restoration. During this check-up, we’ll check to make sure you’re not having complications and that you’re satisfied with the implant restoration.
IF I WANT A DENTAL IMPLANT, WHEN SHOULD I SEE MY DENTIST?
Right away! We can start evaluating you for dental implants as early as your next check-up. Just ask your dentist or hygienist about implants the next time you have an exam. We’ll be able to give you all the info you need on whether dental implants are right for you.
If you want to know more about dental implants, schedule an appointment or come on in during business hours today. Our expert team can take you through the whole process, from evaluation to surgery and beyond. When it comes to your dental health, it never pays to wait. Call or visit ImmediaDent now!