Dental implants have revolutionized the field of Dentistry and changed the lives of many people. By providing a foundation for replacement teeth, bridges, or dentures, they can help you to look and feel just as you did prior to losing any of your natural teeth. Dental implants can make it possible for you to eat your favorite foods again and smile with confidence.
Are you a candidate for Dental Implants?
Almost any person who is missing one or more teeth is a candidate for dental implants. Whether you have lost teeth in an accident, had one or more teeth extracted, or were born without all of your teeth (congenitally missing teeth), it is likely dental implants can be used to replace those teeth.
What are Dental Implants?
The easiest way to describe a dental implant is to compare it to a natural tooth. Natural teeth have two parts, a crown and a root. The crown is the visible part of the tooth that you use when chewing. Under the gums and attached to the jawbone is the root, which supports the crown. Simply put, a dental implant replaces the root of a tooth.
The most common type of dental implants in use today are endosteal (in the bone) or root-form implants. These implants, which are made out of titanium, are fitted into small "sockets" created in your jaw, thus replacing the root of your natural tooth. Once in place, the surrounding bone bonds tightly to the implant surface.
This healing process, known as osseointegration, can take several months and depends, in part, upon the quantity and quality of your remaining jawbone.
After this healing phase, your dentist can now attach your new crown, or if multiple implants have been placed, your new bridge or dentures.
Other considerations are your general health and the amount and quality of jawbone within which implants can be placed. Generally speaking, the ideal implant candidate is either in good health or has systemic illnesses or conditions that are well controlled. At the time of your consultation we will review your medical history with you, and if necessary, consult with your physician regarding your treatment.
Additionally, there must be an adequate amount of high quality bone in the area where implants are to be placed.
After natural teeth are lost, the surrounding bone begins to disappear. Over a period of time, this process, known as resorption, can limit the amount of bone available for implant placement. If this process is severe, bone may need to be added to your jaw by a procedure called bone grafting.
How are Dental Implants placed?
In most cases, dental implants involve two minor surgical procedures performed in the office. This is known as a two-stage approach. During the first visit, an incision is made through the gum and the implant is placed into a site prepared in the bone. Sutures are then placed to close the gum tissue so that the implant is not visible.
After a healing period that ranges from three to six months, the implant is then "uncovered" and a healing abutment or temporary crown is connected to the implant. You are often able to wear your existing denture, or a temporary tooth or bridge, while the implant is healing.
Under certain circumstances a single-stage approach can be used. This technique involves placing the implant and healing abutment simultaneously, so that it is visible in your mouth immediately following the procedure. This approach eliminates the need for the second surgical visit.
The approach that is best for you will be discussed at the time of your consultation. Regardless of which approach is used, once the implant and gum tissue surrounding the healing abutment is healed, your restorative dentist will fabricate and attach your final crown or bridge for you.