What Are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is a surgically installed post that is placed into the jawbone under the gum tissue. This post acts as an artificial tooth root which allows your dentist to anchor restorative replacement teeth or a dental bridge in its place. Because the implants are surgically fused to the jawbone they will not move or slip in the mouth. This allows bridges, and individual crowns to feel much like natural teeth. For some, traditional bridges or dentures are not possible for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, traditional bridges need to be secured to other teeth. This means the adjacent teeth need to be properly prepared and ground down to hold the bridge. This is not the case with dental implants as they act as an independent device to hold the new replacement teeth in place.
Smiling or talking with missing teeth can be difficult and self-confidence levels may drop after one loses teeth. In addition, the loss of teeth can have a negative effect on general eating habits as it may be more difficult to chew. By replacing tooth roots with dental implants, patients can easily enjoy their favorite foods without difficulty. Dental implants can also help maintain the structure of the jawbone and reduce bone loss. After asking and finding answers to their initial questioning of “what are dental implants?” many people, then wonder if this procedure is something that would work for them.
Are Dental Implants Right for Me?
Now that you understand what dental implants are, you may be wondering if they are right for your situation. To determine this, you will need an initial consultation with your dental professional, and possibly, other specialists as needed. During your consultation, your dentist will inspect your teeth as well as your gums to establish the quality and health of the underlying bone. This is done to verify that the bone density is sufficient for dental implants. This may involve an inside look with the use of x-rays as well as computer tomography (CT) scans. This is done to ensure that there is adequate bone available for the insertion of the dental implants as well as helping the dentist determine the precise location the implant needs to be placed. Patients who are found to have inadequate bone density or deficient gum tissues may need bone or tissue grafts to help support successful surgical placement. The dentist may also suggest using smaller diameter dental implants, also known as mini implants, if the bone or tissues are not strong enough to support standard implants.
During this visit, your dentist will advocate you on their recommended treatment plan, how lengthy the treatment process will be and what you may anticipate after each appointment or procedure. During your consultation, the dentist will discuss options for various types of anesthetic and seek out what will work the best for you. The costs of your dental implants will be evaluated during this consolation visit as well. It is important to understand that costs can differ greatly from one procedure to the next and will be dependent on the kind of procedure being performed among other things.
What Types of Dental Implants Are Available?
Dental implants are typically put into categories based on the type of procedure needed to place the implant.
• Single-Stage Dental Implants: The single-stage technique involves surgically inserting an implant into the bone of the jaw. After placement the top will be even with the gum tissue, afterwards the gum tissue is stitched closed, allowing the top of the implant connector to remain visible. As a result, after healing, the impermanent restoration piece can be attached to the implant without the need for an additional operation to expose the head of the implant connector.
• Subperiosteal Implants: Subperiosteal implants are largely used to hold dentures securely in place in patients with inadequate bone elevation. These implants are placed inside the bone of the jaw, under the tissue of the gum, with the metal implant post exposed to hold the restoration. Subperiosteal dental implants are the most frequently used types when performing the single-stage dental implant procedure
• Two-Stage Implants: The two-stage technique involves a surgical placement of an implant into the bone of the jaw, the gum tissue is then stitched closed. Some months after the implant location has healed, a minor operation is completed to attach the crown base and the implant crown on the implant fixture.
• Endosteal Implants: Placed in the bone of the jaw, endosteal dental implants are the most frequently used implants for the two-stage implant procedure. These implants are primarily used as an alternative to a bridge or traditional dentures. Endosteal implants include various styles including threaded screw, smooth cylinder or bladed types.
Types of dental implants may also be categorized based on their shape or by the style of their attachment head. Every implant will demand that the abutment or restoration be directly attached to the head. Because of this, there are three different connector types that are often used in dental implants:
• Internal Hex: As the name suggests, this attachment head is shaped like a hexagon. This connector features an internal opening in the implant head, which allows the implant support to be screwed into.
• External Hex: This connector type is shaped similar to the internal hex implant connector. However, these connectors are located at the topmost external part of the implant.
• Internal Octagon: Much like internal hex connectors, this connector type features an opening at the top of the implant in which the abutment can be fastened into. However, this opening is shaped like an octagon.
The Procedure Explained
Prior to a placement of dental implants, any underlying dental issues will need to be addressed and managed. Common dental problems, such as tooth decay or disease of oral tissue can make this dental treatment less effective. Once your dentist establishes that your oral health is adequate enough for dental implants, your treatment may begin. The implanting process is usually completed in one office visit; however, it will require a healing process thereafter. For a dental implant to successfully anchor to the bone within the jaw, it will require a period of three months at the minimum up to six months on average of healing. This process is known as osseointegration. Failure of the implant will occur if this healing process does not happen. During the operation, a small hole is drilled into the bone of the jaw in order to direct the corrosion-resistant rivet that will secure the implant in place. This is called a pilot hole. Due to the proximity of the numerous vital face and jaw structures in this area, the dentist must take great care and skill, not to cause damage when creating this initial hole. Sometimes the dentist will utilize guides constructed from the initial CT scans to assist them when deciding on the placement of the implant.
Once the pilot drill has been successful, it is carefully widened. This allows the dentist to attentively place the screw implant within the widened hole. When this screw is in place, a protecting cover is put in place and the adjacent tissue is stitched. The implant site is then left for three to six months to heal. After osseointegration has been completed, your dental professional will perform a minor procedure to expose the dental implant and place a connecting element called an abutment. This device will hold the crown. Occasionally, the abutment is positioned during the preliminary procedure. Next, the dentist will place a temporary restoration crown. This crown is used to allow the gum to grow and shape itself naturally. The final procedure involves the temporary restoration being replaced with the permanent restoration crown or bridge.
Recovery from dental implant surgery will often depend on many factors. However, when dental implants have been surgically installed, it is important to maintain thorough oral hygiene behaviors to ensure that the bone fuses properly without interruption. Failure to care for oral health is the foremost cause of the failure of dental implants. In addition, infection of the implant site and surrounding areas may occur if they are not properly cleaned and cared for.
Discomfort is expected to be minimal following your initial dental implant procedure. Slight bruising or bleeding near the dental implants may occur. Some swelling of the gums as well as the face is normal and expected. Your dentist may prescribe pain medication to help alleviate any aches or pain you may experience as a result of your dental implants procedure. Follow up appointments with your dental professional is imperative to a successful implant. Your dentist can ensure that any problems are quickly and effectively addressed. Properly caring for your dental implants is important to make sure that they last as long as possible.
How Long Do Dental Implants Last?
On average the lifespan of properly cared for dental implants is over 25 years. Not all dental restorations will last forever but with proper care, dental implants have the possibility of lasting a lifetime. It is imperative that you do your part in taking care of your implants with proper oral hygiene and regular dentist visits. This is not a difficult task since dental implants are meant to be cared for just like your regular teeth. If you are a smoker, your dentist will counsel you to quit as smokers face a very high failure rate for dental implants. Those with existing gum disease may have a higher risk of failure as well and it is important that these risk factors be addressed prior to the placement of dental implants in such individuals.