What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a prosthetic replacement for a missing tooth. There are commonly three parts to what is described as an implant - the implant device itself (which is inserted directly into the bone), the abutment - the piece that connects the implant device to the third part - the overlying crown or denture.
Dental implants work by a process known as osseointegration, which occurs when bone cells attach themselves directly to the titanium surface, essentially locking the implant into the jaw bone.
Osseointegrated implants can then be used to support prosthetic tooth replacements of various designs and functionality, replacing anything from a single missing tooth to a full arch (all teeth in the upper and lower jaw). These replacement teeth are usually made to match the enamel color of each patient which offers a completely natural appearance and a whole new smile!
Why should I consider dental implants?
If you, have lost one or more teeth, you may be all too familiar with the unpleasant consequences. For many, missing teeth lead to an unattractive smile, embarrassment from loose dentures, and pain or difficulty with eating. Traditional dentistry can provide replacements for missing teeth using bridges, removable partials and dentures. However, each of these has its problems.
Bridgework usually involves altering natural teeth to provide a stable foundation for support of replacement teeth. Partials and dentures can be very unstable and may lead to denture sores or speech difficulties. Another little known problem associated with tooth loss is a process known as "atrophy," a shrinking of the jawbone that can progress relentlessly over the years. Bone atrophy not only affects jaw function, but can cause adverse facial cosmetic changes. Dental implants offer an effective solution to many of these problems.
How are dental implants placed?
Dental implants are usually placed in two phases.
Phase 1 - the actual implant placement, a process generally performed in the office with local anesthesia or light sedation to help make the patient more comfortable. Using precise, gentle surgical techniques, the implants are placed into the jawbone for 3 -6 months while osseointegration (bonding to bone) takes place. This helps ensure a strong, solid foundation for replacement teeth. During this time, temporary bridges or dentures may be used to minimize any cosmetic or chewing inconvenience.
Phase 2 - involves creating and attaching the new tooth or teeth to the anchored implants(s) in your jaw. Dental implants can replace a single tooth, several teeth or complete dentures. Your dentist can recommend the best choice for you.
What are the benefits of dental implants?
Dental implants are an effective, safe and predictable solution to the problems resulting from missing teeth. Many patients report exciting benefits from dental implants, such as:
One additional and very important benefit can be the reduction or elimination of bone atrophy or shrinkage, commonly associated with loss of teeth.
Dental implants are truly a revolution, solving an age-old problem safely and predictably. Implant dentistry can change the smiles and lives of millions for many years to come.
How do I care for my new dental implants?
Proper care of your implants is important to their continued function and good health. While they are not subject to cavities as our natural teeth are, they can develop gum inflammation, and even infection and bone loss if not properly maintained. Whereas localized inflammation and infection around your teeth is known as periodontal disease, a similar process can occur around implants and is known as peri-implantitis.
Your dentist should review proper techniques for keeping your implants clean and the surrounding tissues healthy - but above all else, routine brushing and flossing is necessary.
Your "new teeth" require periodic checking by your dentist to ensure the surrounding gums and bone are maintained and healthy as well as verify that the dental restorations attached to your implants are secure and functioning properly.