Dental implants are the solution to missing teeth that can dramatically change your smile and your life. They provide a non-removable prosthesis that replaces missing teeth, improving your chewing ability and helping you maintain your natural bone.
They’re a great option for people with healthy gums and enough bone to hold them, although they must commit to oral hygiene and regular dental visits. Heavy smokers and patients with uncontrolled chronic conditions – diabetes, heart disease or cancer, for example – may not be good candidates.
The process of restoring your missing tooth roots begins with implant surgery and can take weeks or months to complete. Once the implant is positioned, it heals in a process called osseointegration. This means that the implant fuses to the surrounding bone, forming a sturdy connection.
During surgery, your oral surgeon will use a pair of specialized instruments to open the socket of your jaw where the implant will go. This makes it possible to place the titanium post that anchors the artificial tooth.
You’ll have anesthesia administered to numb the area and make you comfortable. Your doctor will remove the sutures, if any, and check the surgical site for signs of healing or infection.
After the procedure, your oral surgeon will instruct you on post-surgical care. You’ll eat soft foods for a few days, and avoid chewing on hard or sharp objects as much as possible until your jaw heals completely.
Your implant dentist will also provide instructions for cleaning and flossing your new implant. This will help prevent bacteria from forming in your mouth and under your restoration, which can cause infection and lead to other complications, like bone loss or jaw deterioration.
The surgical site is then covered with a plastic shield, which helps protect it from dirt and germs while it heals. You’ll have to visit the office a few times for routine follow-up appointments, and your doctor will recommend medications to help you recover from your surgery.
Once your jaw is healed, your doctor will attach the replacement tooth (crown), which can look and feel just like a real tooth. Your doctor will also make sure that the implant has been integrated correctly into your bone.
In some cases, a temporary denture or bridge will be attached to the implant for a short period of time. This allows your body to grow stronger bone around the implant before the final restoration is fabricated by a restorative dentist.
Your implant can be placed during one of three surgeries: endosteal, subperiosteal or zygomatic. These procedures are usually performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
Endosteal implants are the most common type of dental implant and are designed to be anchored directly into the bone. These implants can be used to support a single crown, multiple crowns or a full bridge.
Surgical protocols for the placement of implants have been refined over time to minimize trauma, maximize the potential for successful osseointegration and improve long-term stability. These protocols vary from the two-stage surgery that places the implant body in the bone and the permucosal element above the tissue, to the immediate-loading procedure where the body is placed directly into the bone without a permucosal element. Click here for more information about dental implants and dental implant specialist.