Modern dentistry has made a lot of advances in the options available for tooth replacement. Through the use of metal bases implanted in the jawbone, dentists are able to replace damaged teeth with stable artificial ones that don’t decay like natural teeth. Dental implants offer a great solution for missing teeth that will keep your smile looking natural for years to come.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are essentially metal screws that are driven carefully into the jawbone after the damaged tooth has been removed and the area has healed. This metal base serves as a replacement for the original tooth’s root and provides a secure foundation to which a new artificial tooth can be attached above the gums. Made from a mixture of titanium and other materials, a dental implant can actually fuse with the bone over time, providing a permanent replacement that is even stronger than the original tooth’s root.
Dental implants give patients the opportunity to have a natural-looking smile despite having to have one or more teeth removed due to decay. Instead of simply removing the damaged tooth and leaving a gap, implants allow our patients to be able to regain their natural smiles while also being able to chew and talk normally.
Implants are available not only for single teeth, but also for anyone who has several teeth in a row to replace or who would like an alternative to a complete set of dentures. A single implant is strong enough to hold several artificial teeth that are bridged together. Four implants are generally used to hold a row of upper or lower teeth. For many people, it is a welcome relief to have a different option besides dentures, which can slide around or cause discomfort or blisters. Implants are meant to be a permanent solution to missing teeth if taken care of properly. They do not need to be replaced every few years like some other dental appliances.
How do they work?
Since dental implants essentially replace the root of a tooth, they must be very securely fastened to the jawbone. Over time, the implant fuses with the bone to create an incredibly firm bond that enables it to handle pressure from chewing without wobbling or loosening. This bonding process, called osseointegration, is what enables the implant to stay fixed in the jaw permanently.
Osseointegration, or the healing and bonding process, can take a few months to complete. Once it is finished, another metal piece, called an abutment, is connected to the metal implant. This abutment is what will later connect the artificial tooth to the implanted metal base. Once healing has taken place and the dentist has made the new tooth, it can be attached to the abutment permanently, giving the patient a smile that looks and feels natural.
How long does the process take?
The overall length of time required for an oral surgery such as dental implants can vary from patient to patient. Your dentist will walk you through the process for your implant step by step, and make sure you know what needs to be done and the timeline for completion. Some patients may require bone grafting for their jaws if there is not enough bone or if the bone is too soft. This can sometimes require a few months for healing before the implant process can even begin.
Even if bone grafting is not required for your procedure, there may still be a few months involved after the metal implant base is installed. Osseointegration takes time and will need to be completed before the dentist can install the new tooth on top of it. The reason for the waiting period is to ensure that the bond between the implant and jawbone will be strong enough to handle pressure from chewing and daily use.
Most patients can expect several months minimum for the process of osseointegration and full healing of the gums to occur. It may take longer in some cases if grafting or other procedures are needed in addition to the standard dental implant process. Your dentist will also need to create an impression of your teeth in order to make the new artificial tooth the right size and shape to fit perfectly. It is a lengthy process that requires healing between each stage.
What is the implant process?
The implant process usually begins with meeting with your dentist and other specialists if necessary, such as a periodontist and/or oral surgeon. Each of these doctors will work with your dentist to come up with a full treatment plan that your dentist will go over with you. They will give recommendations on if you need any grafting done prior to the implant process and an estimate for how long you can expect the process to last.
After meeting and devising a plan, the actual procedure will begin with removing the damaged tooth or teeth. The oral surgeon will then drill into the jaw and carefully screw the implant(s) in place. They will close up the gums and allow time for healing and osseointegration. After a few months, when the bond is firm enough, the surgeon will reopen your gums to attach the abutment.
Once the area has healed and your dental team deems the implant ready for the tooth, your dentist will make an impression of your mouth and form the artificial tooth replacement. Finally, your dentist will permanently attach the new tooth to the abutment.
Can all regular dentists do implants?
Most general dentists are able to perform these procedures, however if it is not something they perform frequently, they may recommend a specialist, such as an oral surgeon, periodontist or maxillofacial surgeon. Your dentist will work alongside these professionals to complete your treatment plan. However, they will sometimes have specialists perform the surgery since they routinely do these procedures and your dentist will just add the new tooth at the end of the process.