Dental implants have become a popular option for patients that are looking for a tooth replacement solution. Many have questions about dental implants and may have some fear and confusion around how they work. This article will present all the information that you will need to know before choosing to get a dental implant.
What are dental implants?To put it simply, dental implants are an artificial tooth that is shaped similarly to a screw. They are placed directly into the jawbone where they bond with the bone. On top of the implant is the base, called an abutment, that supports the artificial base called a crown. By being anchored directly into the jawbone, they are a stable and sturdy base to support the crown. They are durable and lasting tooth replacement solutions. When a tooth is missing, the bone that the root of the tooth will slowly decay over time, changing the shape of your face. Dentures or tooth replacement solutions that simply sit on top of the gums can do nothing to prevent this. Dental implants are the only solution that preserves the natural bone of the jaw. And they can actually help stimulate bone growth. Not only can dental implants provide a great smile, but they can also improve your oral health by essentially replacing your tooth almost as if you had your natural tooth back. They have an advantage over traditional dentures as they preserve the natural jaw bone and thus prevent bone decay and change to your facial shape. The titanium of the implant will fuse to the bone, so the implant won’t slip, make noise, or cause bone damage like how fixed bridgework or dentures can. The materials also don’t decay, unlike your own teeth which support the bridgework. The implant is mounted with an abutment which holds the crown. The crown is made from a variety of materials, from porcelain to zirconium, and is made to look like your natural teeth. Modern implants have a long history of success, with a 30-year track record as the most effective way to replace lost teeth. What makes them so successful is the fact that they look, feel, and function just like a natural tooth. The surgery itself is one of the safest and predictable procedures when performed by a trained and experienced dental implant dentist.
Why do people get dental implants?People may get dental implants for a variety of reasons. Generally, your dentist might recommend dental implants if you:
- Have one or more missing teeth
- Do not smoke tobacco
- Want to improve your ability to speak after tooth loss
- Are unable to unwilling to wear dentures
- Have healthy tissues in your mouth
- Have enough bone structure to support the implant
- Have a fully-grown jawbone
- Don’t have any health conditions that could impact bone healing
- Can commit several months to the process
How are dental implants put in?The implant is surgically placed into the jaw and how the surgery is performed depends on the type of implant used and the condition of your jawbone. There may be a few different procedures involved. Because the process requires the jaw bone to heal around the implant, the process can be quite long before it is complete. Let’s take a look at what a dental implant procedure could look like.
Preparation for the SurgeryIn the planning phase, expect to go to a consultation with dentists and other specialists who will assess the health and condition of your mouth, your jaw, your face and possibly see dentists who specialize in the gums and bones, one who designs and fits artificial teeth, and occasionally an ear, nose, and throat specialist. The complexity of this part of the planning depends on a patient’s particular situation. The evaluation before the surgery will include at least these three things:
- A comprehensive dental exam. This will include dental x-rays, 3D images, and models made of your teeth and jaw.
- A review of your medical history. Be sure to tell your dentist of any preexisting conditions and any medications that you take. Including any prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs and supplements. If you have a heart condition or orthopedic implants you may be recommended to do a course of antibiotics before surgery to prevent infection.
- Creation of a treatment plan. This plan will be custom built to outline the exact steps that you will be taking to prepare for, and recover from the surgery. It will include details like which teeth and how many are being replaced, the condition of your jawbone and remaining teeth, and other details.
The Dental Implant SurgeryThe surgery is often done in stages and is an outpatient surgery. Between each stage is a period for recovery and healing. The steps involved in dental implant surgery may include:
- Removal of the damaged tooth
- Preparation of the jawbone, with potential bone grafting, if needed
- Placement of the dental implant
- Bone growth and healing
- Placement of the abutment
- Placement of the crown (artificial tooth)
Recovery from Dental Implant SurgeryWhen recovering from the surgery, you may experience many of the typical discomforts that come with dental surgery. Some of the discomforts to expect include:
- Swelling in the gums and face
- Bruising of the skin and gums
- Pain or discomfort at the implant site
- Minor bleeding