Dental Implants – Overview
Dental implants are artificial teeth that are surgically implanted in a patient’s jawbone. The implant consists of three parts:
- An implant post (usually made of titanium) that is surgically implanted into the jawbone. This serves as a replacement for the tooth root.
- An abutment. This is a smaller post that connects the implant post with the synthetic tooth. Abutments are semi-permanent – they can be removed and cleaned by your dentist.
- The crown – this is the visible portion of the dental implant that replaces the missing tooth. Crowns mimic the shape and appearance of a natural tooth. They are usually made of zirconium or porcelain.
Dental implants are designed as a permanent solution to missing teeth. Over time, the implant bonds with the living bone of the jaw. This creates a durable and secure anchor for the replacement tooth, avoiding slippage that is common with more impermanent solutions like dentures or bridges.
How Can I Tell If I Need Dental Implants?
If you are missing one or more teeth, dental implants may be a good option for you. Whether you have lost teeth due to injury, disease, or tooth decay implants can provide a permanent solution. Most dental implants replace one or two teeth, but procedures to replace multiple teeth are not unheard of. Dental implants may also serve as anchors to larger dental appliances, such as fixed bridges or implant-supported dentures.
Am I A Good Candidate For Dental Implants?
Suitability for dental implant procedures varies from patient to patient. If you have had no major dental issues or pre-existing medical conditions, then you are probably a good candidate for dental implants. Pre-existing conditions can affect the viability of dental implants, so consult your dentist if you have diabetes, cancer, or another serious medical condition.
Dental implants also require a healthy jawbone to serve as a strong anchor to the implant post. Your dentist can tell you if you have enough bone mass to receive an implant. Healthy gums are also very important for implant viability – your dentist should evaluate the health of your gums and recommend if dental implants are right for you.
Image source: LSK121 Oral Prosthetics
What Is The Dental Implant Process Like?
The dental implant process works like this:
- Dr. Bowyer will complete a thorough dental exam using the latest in dental imaging technology. During this exam, detailed scans will be done using the Trios Intraoral Scanner and an i-CAT CT scan. This imaging will be used to create a surgical guide. This guide ensures that placement of the dental implants is precise.
- After this exam, your dentist will create a treatment plan that takes into account which teeth need to be replaced, the condition of your jawbone, and your general oral health. Once this plan is in place, your dentist will schedule the implant procedure.
- Dental implants are a surgical procedure, so they will require anesthesia. Simpler dental implant procedures may only require local anesthesia, but more complex procedures may require that you go under general anesthesia. Before the procedure starts, you will be anesthetized.
- Your damaged tooth or teeth are removed.
- Your jawbone is prepared for the implant posts – this may involve bone grafting.
- Your jawbone will need to heal after the preparation. After this healing is complete, your dentist will install the metal implant posts into your jawbone.
- Another healing period is necessary after this step. This might last several months.
- After the implant posts have healed, your dentist will place the abutments in the dental implant posts. These abutments are the small metal extensions that connect the dental implant post with the replacement tooth.
- After the soft tissue of your gums have healed, your dentist will make molds of your teeth and jawbone and create synthetic teeth to fit your mouth.
- Once these synthetic teeth are created, they can be connected to the abutment and attached to the dental implant, completing the procedure.
As you can see, this process takes several steps and requires healing time in between many of the steps. The complete dental implant process can take several weeks or several months to complete, depending on the complexity of the procedure, how many teeth are replaced, and the time it takes for your mouth to fully heal.
What Types Of Dental Implants Are Available?
Dental implant procedures fall into two general categories: two-stage, and single-stage implants.
In a two-stage implant procedure, the first stage involves a surgery to place the implant post into the jawbone. The gum tissue is then stitched closed over the implant post to allow for healing. A few months later, a second surgery is performed to reopen the gum tissue above the implant post and attach the abutment and replacement tooth.
Two-stage procedures usually involve endosteal (also known as endosseous) implants. Endosteal implants are placed within the jaw bone, and can attach to abutments via threaded screws, smooth cylinders, or bladed connectors.
A single stage implant procedure involves a longer implant into the jaw. This type of implant leaves the top of the implant post even with gum tissue, and the implant head remains exposed during the healing process. This process is called single stage because only one surgical procedure is required. Abutments and restorations can be attached to the exposed implant post after the healing period, with no need to reopen the gum tissue.
In addition to the procedure types, dental implants are also classified by size. There are three sizes:
- Traditional implants – Come in many sizes, and a good all-purpose implant. Typically used for replacing missing teeth and providing an attachment for dentures.
- Narrow diameter – Used to replace missing teeth when there is not much space between teeth. These implants come in a smaller diameter than traditional implants. This type of implant is mainly used on anterior (front) teeth. They are not usually used in back teeth because they take more pressure and this could cause issues with narrow implants that are unable to support the pressure.
- Mini Dental Implants – Used in situations where a patient’s bone density is insufficient to support a larger implant, or when there is not enough space to accommodate a larger size. Mini dental implants do not replace teeth. They are typically used to support dentures only, mainly on a temporary basis. This type of implant does not integrate to the bone like traditional implants, so they’re not as strong as other implant sizes. Mini dental implants can be a less expensive option for patients without teeth who need to support their dentures, but it’s usually better to spend a little more money on traditional implants to get a more permanent solution.
If you’re looking for an aesthetically pleasing and durable implant, ceramic dental implants are an excellent option. These are also known as “white dental implants” because they more closely match the natural color of teeth. Our office is proud to offer Straumann PURE ceramic implants. These white dental implants are made of a durable zirconia ceramic material, which is even stronger than traditional, titanium implants. You can read more about the advantages of white dental implants in our blog post on the topic.
What Are The Advantages Of Dental Implants?
Many patients and dentists prefer dental implants over other procedures for several reasons:
- Dental implants fuse with bone over time, so they are a more permanent solution than other dental procedures.
- Dental implants look and feel like real teeth.
- Temporary dental appliances like removable dentures or bridges can slip and affect speech or eating. Appliances supported by dental implants do not slip, so they do not interfere with speech or chewing.
- Dental implants offer more comfort and convenience compared to other solutions, since they do not need to be removed regularly.
- Maintaining dental implants is much easier than keeping up with bridges or dentures, that require special cleaning solutions and adhesives.
How Should I Care For My Dental Implants?
One major advantage of dental implants is the ease of maintaining them. Caring for dental implants is much the same as caring for your natural teeth. Brush and floss twice a day and keep regular appointments with your dentist for professional cleanings and checkups. Your dentist may also recommend special cleaning aids to care for the synthetic implant material. If a deep cleaning is needed, your dentist can remove the abutment and crown of the implant to take care of any issues.
Ready To Take The Next Step?
Schedule a consultation with Dr. Bowyer to see if dental implants are right for you. You can call us at (360) 253-2640, email us at email@example.com, or use the form on this page to request a free consultation.
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