Dental implants can be the best solution to the problem of missing teeth. A dental implant, a titanium post, is an artificial tooth root and the foundation for a replacement tooth or bridge. Dental implants integrate into the structure of your bone which will prevent the loss of bone and gum recessions that often accompanies bridgework and dentures. Additionally, they can be cost-saving because you are replacing only one tooth, not three as required by a bridge. Implants are natural looking and feeling. Your confidence in smiling and eating will be restored. You can speak and eat with confidence while no longer being concerned with discomfort of dentures or bridges.
Your dental implant treatment plan will be tailored to your specific needs. The total time for treatment can range anywhere between six weeks to over a year depending on the complexity of your case. It is important that you work as a team with your oral surgeon and restorative dentist to reach your treatment goals.
Benefits of dental implants are:
- Cost effective: Because only one tooth is replaced rather than the three teeth of a bridge, dental implant tooth replacement can actually cost less than traditional bridgework.
- Tooth saving: Dental implants do not sacrifice the quality of your adjacent teeth like a bridge because neighboring teeth are not altered to support the implant. Your own teeth are left untouched, which is a significant long-term benefit to your oral health.
- Comfort: Dental implants will allow you to once again speak and eat with comfort and confidence. They are secure and offer freedom from the troublesome clicks and wobbles of dentures.
- Reliable: The success rate of dental implants is highly predictable. They are considered an excellent option for tooth replacement.
The ideal candidate for a dental implant is in good general and oral health. Adequate bone in your jaw is needed to support the implant. Dental implants are intimately connected with the gum tissues and underlying bone in the mouth. The best candidates have healthy gum tissues that are free of periodontal disease. Smoking is detrimental to healing(and your health) but is not an absolute contraindication. Your dentist can determine if you are a good candidate for this procedure.
What can I expect after placement of dental implant supported restorations?
As you know, your own teeth require conscientious at-home oral care and regular dental visits. Dental implants are like your own teeth and will require the same care. In order to keep your implant clean and plaque-free, brushing and flossing still apply.
Single Tooth Replacement
If you are missing a single tooth, one implant and one crown can replace it. The dental implant replaces the root and the attached crown replaces the visible tooth. In addition to looking and functioning like a natural tooth, a dental implant replaces a single tooth without sacrificing the health of neighboring teeth.
The other common treatment for the loss of a single tooth, a tooth-supported fixed bridge, requires that adjacent teeth be ground down to support the cemented bridge. Because a dental implant will replace your tooth root, the bone is better preserved. With a bridge, some of the bone that previously surrounded the tooth can begin to melt away (resorb). Dental implants integrate with your jawbone, helping to keep the bone healthy and intact. The stresses on the implant actually strengthen the surrounding bone. Instead of bone atrophy, the bone becomes denser and does not resorb.
In the long term, a single implant can be more esthetic and easier to keep clean than a bridge. Bridges need tricky flossing devices to thread the floss in between the anchoring teeth. A single implant crown can be cleaned with the same floss used on natural teeth. Gums can recede around a bridge, leaving a visible defect when the metal base or collar of the bridge becomes exposed. Resorbed bone beneath the bridge can lead to an unattractive smile. Also, the cement holding the bridge in place can wash out, allowing bacteria to decay the teeth that anchor the bridge.
Replacing Several Teeth
If you are missing several teeth, implant-supported bridges may be an option. Dental implants will replace your missing tooth roots and the restorations on them will replace the teeth themselves. You will experience restored confidence in your smile and your ability to chew and speak. Dental implants provide several advantages over other teeth replacement options. In addition to looking and functioning like natural teeth, implant-supported bridges replace teeth without support from adjacent natural teeth. Other common treatments for the loss of several teeth, such as fixed bridges or removable partial dentures, are dependent on support from adjacent teeth. In addition, because implant-supported bridges will replace some of your tooth roots, your bone is better preserved. With a fixed bridge or removable partial denture, the bone that previously surrounded the tooth root may begin to resorband deteriorate. Dental implants integrate with your jawbone, helping to keep the bone healthy and intact. Gums and bone can recede around a fixed bridge or removable partial denture, leaving a visible defect. Resorbed bone beneath bridges or removable partial dentures can lead to a collapsed, unattractive smile. The cement holding bridges in place can wash out, allowing bacteria to decay teeth that anchor the bridge. In addition, the removable partial denture can move around in the mouth and reduce your ability to eat certain foods. In the long term, implants are esthetic, functional and comfortable.
Replacing All Your Teeth
If you are missing all of your teeth, an implant supported full bridge or full denture can replace them. Dental implants will replace both your lost natural teeth and some of the roots. They will provide several advantages over other teeth replacement options. In addition to looking and functioning like natural teeth, implant-supported full bridges or dentures are designed to be long lasting. Implant supported full bridges and dentures are more comfortable and stable than conventional dentures, allowing you to retain a more natural biting and chewing capacity. In addition, because implant-supported full bridges and dentures will replace some of your tooth roots, your bone is better preserved. With conventional dentures, the bone that previously surrounded the tooth roots begins to resorb and deteriorate. Dental implants integrate with your jawbone, helping to keep the bone healthy and intact. In the long term, implants can be more esthetic and easier to maintain than conventional dentures.
How will the implant be placed?
First, the implant is placed into your jaw by your oral surgeon. This procedure is done in the office under intravenous sedation immediately after extraction of the tooth or after the bone at the tooth extraction site has healed. Over the next two to four months, the implant and the bone are allowed to bond together or integrate to form an anchor for your artificial tooth. During this time, a temporary tooth replacement option can be worn over the implant site.
Often, a second step is necessary to uncover the implant and attach an extension. Your gums will be allowed to heal for a couple of weeks following this procedure. Some implant systems are designed for a single stage and do not require this second step. These systems use an implant that incorporates the extension piece. Your dentist and oral surgeon will advise you on which system is best for you. A metal post, called an abutment, completes the foundation on which your new tooth will be placed.
Finally, a replacement tooth called a crown will be created for you by your dentist and attached to the abutment. Your confidence in your smile and your ability to chew and speak will be restored.
A key to implant success is the amount and quality of the bone where the implant is to be placed. Deformities in the upper or lower jaw secondary to trauma, surgical extraction or gum disease can leave you with inadequate bone in which to place dental implants. Not only does this deformity cause problems in placing the implant, it can also cause an unattractive indentation in the jaw line near the missing teeth that may be unaesthetic, difficult to clean and maintain.
To correct the problem, the gum is lifted away from the ridge to expose the bony defect. The defect is then filled with bone or bone substitute materials to build up the ridge. Your oral surgeon can tell you about your options for graft materials which can help to regenerate lost bone and tissue. Finally, the incision is closed and healing is allowed to take place.
Depending on your individual needs, the bone usually will be allowed to heal for about three to four months before implants can be placed. In some cases, the implant can be placed at the same time the ridge is modified. Ridge modification has been shown to greatly improve appearance and increase your chances for successful implants that can last for years to come. Ridge modification can enhance your restorative success both esthetically and functionally.
A key to implant success is the quantity and quality of the bone where the implant is to be placed. The posterior part of the upper jaw has traditionally been one of the most difficult areas to successfully place dental implants due to insufficient bone quantity and quality and the close proximity to the sinus. If you have lost bone in that area due to reasons such as periodontal disease or tooth loss, you may be left without enough bone to place implants. Also due to atrophy, the sinus itself may expand larger than if teeth were present. Sinus augmentation can help correct this problem by raising the sinus floor and inserting bone for the placement of dental implants.
Several techniques can be used to raise the sinus and allow for new bone to form. They are all carried out through the mouth and the procedure is performed in the office under intravenous sedation. In some cases, the implant can be placed at the same time the sinus is augmented. Sinus augmentation has been shown to greatly increase your chances for successful implants that can last for years to come.