If you are missing teeth it can be embarrassing. You feel self-conscious when smiling and talking because of the spaces. Chewing and eating can also be a difficult task. Dental implants can replace missing teeth and the look and feel more natural than dentures or other restorations. A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is placed into the jawbone. The implant fuses with the bone and provides a secure platform for a prosthesis (crown, bridge, or denture.)
An examination is necessary to determine if you are a candidate for implants. Films are taken to view the quantity and quality of the bone as well as the condition of surrounding teeth. Your dental and medical history will also be reviewed.
Implants are usually a two-step surgical procedure. The first step is the actual placement of the implant. The area to be treated in anesthetized, the bone is exposed and prepped, and then the implant is placed into the bone. A cover screw is placed on top of the implant and the area is closed and sutured. It will take approximately 3-6 months for the bone to fuse with the implant (integration).
Once the implant is securely integrated the second step of surgery is performed. The implant site is opened and the implant is exposed. A healing cap is temporarily secured to the implant. When the gums have healed, the cap is removed a custom abutment is placed. This will be the understructure for the prosthesis. The abutment is shaped and a mold is taken for the lab to make the final restoration. A temporary crown or bridge is made and worn until the final crown is completed, (usually about 3 weeks.) The permanent crown / bridge will be cemented to the abutment.
Implants can also be used to secure partial or full dentures. For a complete lower denture, 2 or 4 implants would be placed, custom abutments inserted after healing, and a denture would be made that would snap into place. For a complete upper denture, 4 implants are placed, custom abutments inserted after healing, and again a denture would be made. The upper denture could be made without the acrylic that covers the roof of the mouth, which is usually uncomfortable. The dentures are more stable and secure and the patient is more comfortable with the appearance and function of the new dentures.
Implants require routine maintenance and a commitment to good oral health care. The abutments will need to be cleaned professionally every few months. Films will be taken periodically to evaluate the bone surrounding the implant. The doctor will examine the abutment and prosthesis to make sure everything is secure and fits well as well as make any adjustments needed.
Missing Molars? Avoid Jawbone Loss, Anchor an Implant
Implants anchor natural-looking artificial teeth, keep bone structure intact and are quickly becoming the treatment of choice for some patients who are a candidate for a single tooth replacement.
Yet, a percentage of adults who may be implant candidates do not have implants. Extractions are performed, bridges, partials or dentures are placed, and the patient goes home, with nary a thought about the jawbone underneath the newly extracted tooth.
Many patients are unaware that bone loss in their jaw will always follow the loss of a tooth. When that happens, over time, bone loss can cause facial changes, speech changes and diet changes Successfully placed dental implants cause the bone to grow around the anchor and firmly hold it in place. Dental implants can restore normal eating and speaking abilities, increase denture retention, and enhance facial appearance.
Are you a good candidate for dental implants?
Each patient must:
- Have a comprehensive exam to determine if they are a candidate
- Be in good health
- Have healthy gums
- Have adequate bone structure
- Have excellent oral hygiene habits
- Maintain regular dental visits