A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is inserted into your jaw to provide a strong foundation for a bridge or prosthetic tooth. If you would rather not wear dentures or a bridge, which require shaping the adjacent teeth, after having lost teeth due to a disease or an accident, then dental implantology might be the perfect solution for you.
Types of Dental Implants
There are two primary categories of dental implants:
- Endosteal: Surgically implanted blades or screws are some of the many varieties that a surgeon embeds in the jawbone to hold the prosthetic tooth or teeth. For patients who currently use removable dentures or bridges, this type of implant is typically a substitute.
- Subperiosteal: This implant is positioned above the jaw and held in place by a metal framework that juts through the gum. Subperiosteal implants are often employed for patients that cannot wear traditional dentures or do not have enough bone height to support an endosteal implant.
When bone grafting is required
Bone grafting may be required prior to implant surgery for those with a thinner or softer jawbone. This is due to the pressure exerted on the bone when chewing, which could cause the surgery to fail if the implant cannot be supported by the jawbone.
Materials that can be used to rebuild the jawbone include:
- Natural bone graft (taken from another area in the body)
- Synthetic bone graft, such as bone substitute material
The transplanted bone may take several months to grow enough to support a dental implant. In some cases, patients may only need minor bone grafting, which can be done at the same time as the implant surgery.
Choosing your new teeth
After the gums have healed, more impressions of the mouth and remaining teeth are made, which are used to make the crown. The crown cannot be placed until the jawbone is strong enough to support the new teeth.
Patients can consult their dental specialist and choose teeth that are fixed, removable, or a combination of both.
Removable – similar to conventional removable dentures; can be partial or full. They contain artificial teeth surrounded by pink plastic gums, which are mounted on a metal frame that is attached to the implant abutment, and snaps securely into place. These can be removed easily for daily cleaning.
Fixed – an artificial tooth is permanently screwed or cemented onto an individual implant abutment. These cannot be removed – each crown is generally attached to its own dental implant. However, due to their exceptional strength, several teeth can be replaced by one implant if they are bridged together.
The planning process for dental implants may involve one or more surgical procedures – patients must have a thorough evaluation to prepare for the process, including:
- A comprehensive medical examination – Patients may have dental X-rays and 3D images taken, and models made of the teeth and jaw
- Review of medical history – doctors must be informed of any medical conditions, and any medications the patient may be taking, including prescription and over the counter drugs and supplements. For patients with certain heart conditions or orthopedic implants, doctors may prescribe antibiotics prior to surgery to prevent infection
- Treatment plan – this is tailored to the needs of each patient, and takes into consideration factors such as the number of teeth required, and the condition of the jawbone and remaining teeth
An implantologist will recommend the ideal solution for the patient. The implant placement and crown insertion may be done on the same day in certain cases. However, the implant surgery is usually split up into several sessions, typically spread out over the course of a few months.
- Patients are usually given a local anesthetic or IV sedation to numb the area and ensure minimal pain during the procedure
- The dentist creates a small incision in the gums to insert the implant into the jawbone. The gums are then sealed so that they remain protected
- Patients may need to go through recuperation for six months prior to the insertion of the replacement teeth. This allows enough time for the implant to strengthen, making it easier for it to maintain its position
- The dentist will then ensure that the implant is firmly in place, after which the implant is covered with a connecting device (abutment), which is responsible for supporting the new tooth
- After the gums have healed, the dentist will take dental imprints and create the crown, which is attached to the abutment. There may be some swelling, light bleeding, and discomfort after the procedure
What you can expect
Dental implant surgery is generally an outpatient surgery that is performed in stages, with time allowed for healing in between procedures. The process of placing a dental implant involves multiple steps, including:
- Damaged tooth removal
- Jawbone preparation (grafting) – if required
- Dental implant placement
- Abutment placement
- Tooth placement
The process can take several months to complete. In certain cases, depending on the type of procedure or the materials used, certain steps may be combined.
Are You Eligible for a Dental Implant Procedure?
A patient’s eligibility depends on a number of factors:
- Overall health – getting implants is a surgical procedure; patients with poor oral health (especially those who smoke, consume alcohol, or have diabetes), will tend to have lower success rates
- Healthy gums – having healthy gums adds much-needed support for the new implants; dental implant failure is common among patients who are at a high risk for gum disease
- Oral hygiene – the success of the procedure hinges on maintaining good oral hygiene
- Bone density – dental implants must fuse with the jawbone, therefore bone density and quality are of utmost importance
Benefits of Dental Implant Procedure
Some of the key benefits include:
- Diminished tooth sensitivity
- Reduced likelihood of cavities in neighboring teeth
- Limits further tooth loss
- Can prevent jaw degeneration
- Improved speech
Dental implants require diligent at-home care including brushing, flossing, rinsing with mouthwash and regular dental appointments just like natural teeth. This will help to maintain function and starve off peri-implant disease after a dental implant procedure.
*Patients will need to have an X-ray or CBCT scan prior to the implant procedure – these scans are used as a diagnostic tool to ensure the treatment is as accurate as possible
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