Dental implants are becoming an increasingly popular method for replacing missing teeth. In this procedure, titanium supports are surgically fused with your jawbone, and act as an anchor for naturally looking false teeth. Dental implants are not only used for individual tooth replacement, but can also be used when replacing multiple teeth as an alternative to dentures.
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Advantages of dental implants
- Implants are extremely natural looking
- Fusion of the implants into your jaw make them very stable and comfortable compared to traditional dentures
- They last a lifetime
Disadvantages of dental implants
- Implants are expensive and a major financial investment
- The process of getting implants can be time consuming and requires multiple visits to the dentist
- There is a chance the surgery fails (roughly 5% of the time)
Types of implants
Your dentist will be able to tell you which of the three types of implants is right for you:
- Root form implant: This is the most common type of implant where the screw is shaped like the root of a tooth.
- Plate Form Implant:A plate form implant has a flat and long shape and is better suited for a narrow jawbone.
- Subperiosteal Implants: In some cases where there is not enough bone width or height for the root form or plate form implant, a subperiosteal implant may be prescribed. This type of implant is designed to sit on top of the bone, but under the gums.
Step 1 — Remove the Tooth
If the damaged tooth is still in your mouth, the dentist will extract the tooth. This step is not necessary if your tooth is already missing.
Step 2 — Grafting and Jawbone Preparation
Many patients who undergo implant surgery have thin or soft jawbones. Bone grafting, which improves the quantity and quality of bone, ensures the procedure doesn’t fail. Options include a synthetic bone graft, such as a bone-substitute, or a natural graft, which means bone is taken from another area of the patient’s body.
The healing process for bone grafts takes a few months before a dental implant can be placed. Fortunately, grafts are not always necessary.
Step 3 — Implant Placement
During the actual procedure, the dentist exposes the bone by cutting the gums with small instruments. A dentist drills holes into the bone. Then they position the implant (a post) deep into the bone, which functions as the tooth’s root.
Step 4 — Healing and Growth
Osseointegration begins after the metal implant is placed in your jawbone. This is when the supporting bone begins to bond with the implant. This process can take several months to complete and ensures the base is sturdy enough to support an artificial tooth (dental crown).
Step 5 — Abutment Placement (Crown Preparation)
After the healing process is complete, your dentist will place an abutment on top of the implant post. The abutment extends the implant above the soft tissue (gums). This step allows for easy placement of the dental crown.
Step 6 — Crown Placement (Artificial Tooth)
Once the implant grows into the bone, and it is strong enough to support chewing, your dentist will make new impressions of your mouth. Then a dental technician will create a custom dental crown in a lab. An artificial dental crown looks similar to your natural teeth. The crown sits on top of the abutment (connector) and becomes the only visible part of the implant.
Step 7 — Aftercare
Pain medications and antibiotics are usually prescribed post-op. During the healing process, it is also important to only eat soft foods and practice excellent oral care habits. Restricting the intake of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco is also essential to see the best results.
Regular check-ups are necessary during the first few months after the implant procedure is complete. You should also keep up with regular dental exams post-surgery.