WHAT IS A DENTAL IMPLANT?
The best way to describe a dental implant is to compare it to a real tooth. A natural tooth consists of a root and a crown. The part of the tooth that you see and eat with is called the crown. Beneath the crown is the root, which anchors the tooth through the gum tissue to the jawbone. When you lose a tooth, you lose both the root and the crown. To replace a tooth, we first have to replace the root. Essentially, a dental implant is a new root. This titanium root is fitted into a socket that we create in your jaw, replacing the lost root of your natural tooth.
Dental implants come in various shapes and sizes and have different types of surfaces. The actual implant selection will depend on a variety of factors related to your specific treatment needs and the most appropriate one(s) will be used. Once an implant has been placed in the jaw, the bone around the implant will need to heal for two to six months, depending upon how hard the bone is. When this initial phase of healing is completed, a support post called an abutment will be placed into the implant itself and then a new crown will be placed on top. If all of your teeth are missing, a variety of implant treatment options are available to support the replacement teeth and or dentures.
HOW ARE DENTAL IMPLANTS PLACED?
Usually, the office procedure to place a dental implant takes about an hour for one implant and no more than two or three hours for complex multiple implant cases. The placement process consists of the following steps:
- If indicated, you will be given medication such as antibiotics prior to the surgery. You may elect to be asleep or awake for the procedure. Local anesthetic will be administered to numb the areas where the implant/s will be placed insuring comfort upon awaking.
- After you are comfortable, a small incision is made into the gum tissue, revealing the bone into which the implant will be placed.
- Using special instruments, a socket is created carefully, avoiding damage to the bone and adjacent structures.
- The implant is then inserted into the socket.
- Finally, if necessary, sutures will be used.
After the implant is placed, the area will need to heal for as little as ten weeks or as long as six months. How long your mouth will need to heal will be determined by a variety of factors. These factors will be discussed with you by our Doctors at your consultation appointment. Follow-up care is usually needed to ensure that your mouth is healing well and to determine when you are ready for the restorative phase of your treatment.
After the implant has bonded to the jawbone (integration), the second phase begins. We will uncover the implants and attach small caps or posts. These posts protrude through the gums, which will now heal tightly around them.
The dental work required to complete your treatment can be complex. It is, however, considered more comfortable and more pleasant than conventional dental care. Frequently, most of the work can be done without using even local anesthesia.
Your restorative treatment begins with specialized impressions that allow your dentist to produce a replica of your mouth and implants. They may also make "bite" records so that we see the relationship of your upper and lower jaws. With this information, abutments (support posts) are selected that attach your replacement teeth to your implants. Various types of abutments exist. Most frequently, standard abutments are used. Other times, custom abutments must be made of gold or a tooth-colored ceramic material. Which abutment to use is a decision of your referring Dentist based on what is Best for You.
There are situations where the implants can be placed at the same time as a tooth extraction further minimizing the number of surgical procedures. Advances in dental implant technology have made it possible in select cases, to place implants with crowns at one visit. This process, called “immediate loading” or “immediate stabilization” greatly enhances the patient experience with the surgical and prosthetic process.