Dental implants are changing the way people live. They are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth which look, feel and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat virtually anything, knowing that teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved they can smile with confidence
What are Dental Implants?
The implants themselves are titanium posts which are inserted into the jawbone where teeth are missing. These metal anchors act as tooth root substitutes. They are surgically placed into the jawbone. The bone bonds with the titanium, creating a strong foundation for artificial teeth. Small posts are then attached to the implant which protrude through the gums. These posts provide stable anchors for artificial replacement teeth.
Implants also help preserve facial structure, preventing the bone deterioration that occurs when teeth are missing
What Are the Advantages of Dental Implants?
There are many advantages to dental implants, including:
- Improved appearance: Dental implants look and feel like your own teeth. And because they are designed to fuse with bone, they become permanent.
- Improved speech: With poor-fitting dentures, the teeth can slip within the mouth causing you to mumble or slur your words. Dental implants allow you to speak without the worry that teeth might slip.
- Improved comfort: Because they become part of you, implants eliminate the discomfort of removable dentures.
- Easier eating: Sliding dentures can make chewing difficult. Dental implants function like your own teeth, allowing you to eat your favorite foods with confidence and without pain.
- Improved self-esteem: Dental implants can give you back your smile and help you feel better about yourself.
- Improved oral health: Dental implants don’t require reducing other teeth, as a tooth-supported bridge does. Because nearby teeth are not altered to support the implant, more of your own teeth are left intact, improving long-term oral health. Individual implants also allow easier access between teeth, improving oral hygiene.
- Durability: Implants are very durable and will last many years. With good care, many implants last a lifetime.
- Convenience: Removable dentures are just that; removable. Dental implants eliminate the embarrassing inconvenience of removing dentures, as well as the need for messy adhesives to keep them in place.
Can anyone get dental implants?
The first step in the dental implant process is the development of an individualized treatment plan. The plan addresses your specific needs and is prepared by a team of professionals who are specially trained and experienced in oral surgery and restorative dentistry. This team approach provides coordinated care based on the implant option that is best for you.
Most people are good candidates to get dental implants. You must have enough bone in your jaw to allow an implant to be placed in the jawbone. You should be free of periodontal disease.
Some people want implants to replace teeth that have been missing for years. Others may need implants to replace teeth that were extracted recently because of severe decay, periodontal (gum) disease, infection or injury. In some cases, the teeth can be extracted and the implant placed at the same time. However, if you have a severe infection in a tooth root or your gums, your dentist may wait a few months after removing the teeth to allow the area to heal.
If you do not have enough bone to support an implant, you may be able to have the bone in the area built up. This is a common procedure called bone grafting or augmentation. If a bone graft is done, you will need four to eight months to heal before having the implants placed in your jawbone. You can wear dentures or a bridge during this time, so you won’t be without teeth.
What should I expect during the surgical procedure?
For most patients, the placement of dental implants involves two surgical procedures. First, implants are placed within your jawbone. For the first three to six months following surgery, the implants are beneath the surface of the gums gradually bonding with the jawbone. You should be able to wear temporary dentures and eat a soft diet during this time. At the same time, your dentist is forming new replacement teeth.
After the implant has bonded to the jawbone, the second phase begins. The doctor will uncover the implants and attach small posts which will act as anchors for the artificial teeth. These posts protrude through the gums. When the artificial teeth are placed these posts will not be seen. The entire procedure usually takes six to eight months. Most patients experience minimal disruption in their daily life.
What should I expect after surgery?
After first procedure
After the surgery, your surgeon will give you antibiotics and pain medicine. You also will get instructions to follow. These will include:
- Don’t spit, suck on straws or smoke. This can dislodge blood clots and slow healing.
- Eat only soft food to avoid injuring your gums.
- Don’t try to clean the implant area for the next few days, but clean the rest of your mouth normally. Your dentist may give you an antibacterial rinse to help keep the area clean.
You will return to the surgeon 7 to 10 days later to have your stitches removed.
After the implant is placed in your jaw, you will have to wait several months for the bone to bond with the implant. This usually takes 3 or 4 months in the lower jaw and 5 or 6 months in the upper jaw. During this time, the head of the implant usually remains hidden under your gum.
After Second procedure
After the implants have integrated with (attached to) the surrounding bone, you are ready for the second step. After giving you local anesthesia, your surgeon will make a small cut in the gum. This exposes the implant. This surgeon will remove a protective screw from the implant and replace it with a metal healing cap (collar). The healing cap looks like a small metal cylinder that sits above your gums in the area where your tooth would be. It maintains the space so that the gum heals correctly around the implant.
In a very small percentage of cases, the implants will not successfully integrate with the bone. If this happens, your dentist can do one of the following:
- Remove the implants and immediately replace them with slightly wider ones.
- Remove them, place grafts of bone in the empty spaces and allow the area to heal for several months before making a second attempt.
Some dentists are now using one-stage implants. These implants are placed in the jaw and remain exposed in the mouth so that no second surgery is needed.
Generally, you will go to your dentist or prosthodontist two or three weeks after the second surgery to start the process of having your crown, bridge or denture made.
How do I care for Dental Implants?
Dental implants require the same care as real teeth, including brushing, flossing, rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash, and regular dental check-ups.