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.
WHO ACTUALLY PERFORMS THE IMPLANT PLACEMENT?
Implants are a team effort between an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon and a Restorative Dentist. While the doctors at Southwest Oral Surgery perform the actual implant surgery, and initial tooth extractions and bone grafting if necessary, the restorative dentist (your dentist) fits and makes the permanent prosthesis. Your dentist will also make any temporary prosthesis needed during the implant process.
WHAT TYPES OF PROSTHESES ARE AVAILABLE?
A single prosthesis (crown) is used to replace one missing tooth – each prosthetic tooth attaches to its own implant. A partial prosthesis (fixed bridge) can replace two or more teeth and may require only two or three implants. A complete dental prosthesis (fixed bridge) replaces all the teeth in your upper or lower jaw. The number of implants varies depending upon which type of complete prosthesis (removable or fixed) is recommended. A removable prosthesis (over denture) attaches to a bar or ball in socket attachments, whereas a fixed one is permanent and removable only by the dentist.
WHY DENTAL IMPLANTS?
Once you learn about dental implants, you finally realize there is a way to improve your life. When you lose one or several teeth – whether it’s a new situation or something you have lived with for years – chances are you have never become fully accustomed to losing such a vital part of yourself.
Dental implants can be your doorway to renewed self-confidence and peace of mind.
WHY WOULD YOU SELECT DENTAL IMPLANTS OVER MORE TRADITIONAL TYPES OF RESTORATIONS?
There are several compelling reasons: One or several teeth can be replaced by a “flipper” which is plastic, fragile and temporary. If worn continuously mucosal irritation and fungal infections can occur. A removable cast partial denture can be worn. It is removable, can be unstable and the retaining clasps can apply torqueing motions that weaken the supporting teeth over time.
Conventional fixed bridges necessitate sacrificing the structure of surrounding good teeth to bridge a space. They cannot be used when there are no posterior teeth. Full dentures or "plates" are the traditional solution for people who have lost all their teeth in one or both jaws. The success of a full denture depends upon the individual’s jaw size and shape, his or her oral habits, and his or her adaptability. Some people poorly adapt to full dentures. In addition, removing a denture or a “partial” at night may be inconvenient, not to mention that dentures that slip can be uncomfortable and rather embarrassing.
ARE YOU A CANDIDATE FOR IMPLANTS?
If you are considering implants, your mouth must be examined thoroughly and your medical and dental history reviewed. If you mouth is not ideal for implants, ways of improving outcome, such as bone grafting, may be recommended.
WHAT TYPE OF ANESTHESIA IS USED?
The majority of dental implants and grafts can be performed in the office with local anesthesia, sedation or general anesthesia depending upon the patients needs and desires.
DO IMPLANTS NEED SPECIAL CARE?
Once the implants are in place, they will serve you well for many years if you take care of them and keep your mouth healthy. This means taking the time for good oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) and keeping regular appointments with your dental specialists.