Thanks to modern dental technology, patients who want to replace missing teeth have several different options for how to do so – full or partial sets of dentures or dental bridges, for example. But one tooth-replacement method has become increasingly popular over the past few years: dental implants. Once you learn more about this amazing technology, you’ll understand why more and more dental patients are choosing implants to replace missing teeth or to anchor their dentures or prosthetic devices. We’ve compiled the following information to explain what is involved in the dental implant procedure.
A Brief Overview of Dental Implants
Let’s begin by describing what a dental implant is. Generally speaking, an implant consists of a tiny metal rod (usually made from titanium) that is inserted into the jawbone of the patient. Over a period of time – typically a few months – the metal fuses to the bone tissue, creating what is essentially an artificial tooth root. Once that is complete, the dentist or oral surgeon affixes a replacement tooth to the top of the implant. That tooth is usually a porcelain crown, but it may also be made from other materials, such as composite, for example. The end result for the patient is a replacement tooth that is incredibly strong, durable and permanent.
The Dental Implant Procedure: From Start to Finish
If you’re considering dental implant surgery, it’s important to understand what to expect before, during and after the procedure. The details of the procedure can vary somewhat depending on what type of implant you’re receiving and what purpose the implant will serve. People who receive implants that are intended to anchor dentures or dental prosthetic devices may undergo a slightly different procedure with a shortened recovery period. So for the sake of our discussion, we will describe the procedure involved in getting one or more dental implants that are intended to replace missing teeth, which is the most common use for implants.
- Determining whether or not you are a good candidate for a dental implant: Most patients will be pleased to find out that they are, in fact, good candidates for this remarkable tooth-replacement procedure. However, if your jawbone density is compromised in some way, you may require a bone graft before getting an implant. This relatively common procedure allows your dentist or oral surgeon to strengthen your jawbone so that it can accommodate the implant. If you need a bone graft procedure, it will be an additional step in the process.
- Preparing for the procedure: Your dentist or oral surgeon will usually begin the implant process by taking X-rays and developing a plan for your implant surgery. Once that is complete, your oral health provider will schedule your surgery appointment. Keep in mind that some form of dental sedation is typically administered to the patient prior to the procedure, so you should arrange to have someone take you home after your surgery so you won’t have to drive. Your dentist or oral surgeon may recommend that you restrict your food and/or drink intake prior to the procedure, particularly if you’ll be under IV sedation. You may also be prescribed an antibiotic to take for a few days before your surgery and/or directed to rinse with an anti-bacterial mouthwash for a time prior to the procedure.
- The initial step of the process: You should be prepared for several appointments with your dentist or oral surgeon in order to complete the implant procedure. The initial visit will begin with the dentist administering a local anesthetic and some form of dental sedation. This combination will ensure that you don’t feel any pain at all during the surgery. Your surgeon or dentist will start by making an incision in your gum tissue at the location of your missing tooth. He or she will then insert a tiny metal rod through the gum tissue and into the jawbone below, and then seal the gum tissue on top of the implant.
- Recovery at home: Once the rod is implanted into your jawbone, it will take a few months for the metal to fuse with the bone tissue. During this time, you’ll return to your normal daily activities, although your dentist will most likely recommend taking some precautions to protect the implant site during this time.
- Connecting an abutment and attaching a crown: After the implant has fused to the jawbone, you’ll return to the dentist to have an abutment placed on top of the post portion of the implant. A custom-made crown will then be permanently attached to the abutment.
Benefits of Dental Implants
While it’s true that the procedure involved in getting a new dental implant is lengthy, there are several good reasons why so many patients choose implants as their preferred method for replacing missing teeth:
- An implant looks just like a natural tooth. Because your dentist will create a custom-made crown that exactly matches the shade of your other teeth, no one will ever know that you have an implant!
- Implants function and fell just like your other natural teeth. An implant not only looks natural, it functions and feels natural too! Unlike some other tooth-replacement methods – such as dentures or bridges, for example – implants are intended to last for many, many years. In fact, many patients keep their implants for an entire lifetime!
- Implants don’t require any special care. Once your implant procedure is complete, all you have to do is brush and floss as you normally would and, of course, visit your dentist on a regular basis for professional cleanings and exams.
Getting a dental implant is very much like getting a brand new natural tooth, so it’s no wonder why so many people are choosing this as their tooth-replacement method. While implants are an excellent option for most people, it may not be the best choice for everyone. To learn more about what is involved in the dental implant procedure, and to find out if you are a good candidate for this technology, schedule an appointment with your dentist today.