Are Dental Implants Right for You?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is placed into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge. Dental implants are a popular and effective way to replace missing teeth and are designed to blend in with your other teeth. They are an excellent long-term option for restoring your smile. In fact, the development and use of implants is one of the biggest advances in dentistry in the past 40 years. Dental implants are made up of titanium and other materials that are compatible with the human body. They are posts that are surgically placed in the upper or lower jaw, where they function as a sturdy anchor for replacement teeth.
Types of Dental Implants
- Endosteal (in the bone): This is the most commonly used type of implant. The various types include screws, cylinders or blades surgically placed into the jawbone. Each implant holds one or more prosthetic teeth. This type of implant is generally used as an alternative for patients with bridges or removable dentures.
- Subperiosteal (on the bone): These are placed on top of the jaw with the metal framework’s posts protruding through the gum to hold the prosthesis. These types of implants are used for patients who are unable to wear conventional dentures and who have minimal bone height.
Types of Dental Implant Procedures
- Replacing a Single Tooth: If you are missing a single tooth, one implant and a crown can replace it.
- Replacing Several Teeth: If you are missing several teeth, implant-supported bridges can replace them.
- Replacing All of Your Teeth: If you are missing all of your teeth, an implant-supported full bridge or full denture can replace them.
- Sinus Augmentation: A key to implant success is the quantity and quality of the bone where the implant is to be placed. The upper back 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. Sinus augmentation can help correct this problem by raising the sinus floor and developing bone for the placement of dental implants.
- Ridge Modification: Deformities in the upper or lower jaw can leave you with inadequate bone in which to place dental implants. 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 to build up the ridge. Ridge modification has been shown to greatly improve appearance and increase your chances for successful implants that can last for years to come.
Phases of Dental Implants
- First, the dentist surgically places the implant into the jawbone. Your dentist may recommend a diet of soft foods, cold foods and warm soup during the healing process.
- Next, the bone around the implant heals in a process called osseointegration. What makes an implant so strong is that the bone actually grows around it and holds it in place. Osseointegration means “combines with the bone” and takes time. Some patients might need to wait until the implant is completely integrated, up to several months, before replacement teeth can be attached to the implant. Other patients can have the implants and replacement teeth placed all in one visit.
- Finally, it’s time for the placement of the artificial tooth/teeth. For a single tooth implant, your dentist will customize a new tooth for you, called a dental crown. The crown will be based on size, shape, color and fit, and will be designed to blend in with your other teeth. If you are replacing more than a single tooth, custom-made bridges or dentures will be made to fit your mouth and your implants. (Note: The replacement teeth usually take some time to make. In the meantime, your dentist may give you a temporary crown, bridge or denture to help you eat and speak normally until the permanent replacement is ready.)