The dental implant is a metal tooth root replacement that is placed in the jawbone, allowing your dentist to mount teeth or bridges into the area.
What are the benefits of the dental implant?
Dental implants can provide a far superior experience to other tooth restoration options, like dentures and bridges. Since dental implants are planted in your jawbone, they provide stable artificial teeth that look and feel like natural teeth.
Some other key benefits of dental implants:
- They are long-lasting and durable
- They provide an improved chewing and talking ability
- They improve your appearance and self-esteem
Am I a good candidate for dental implants?
Since dental implants rely on your gums and bone for support and significant healing time is required for the procedure to be successful, you need to be healthy and have healthy gums and good bone density to be a good candidate for dental implants.
If any of the following apply to you, you are likely NOT a good candidate for dental implants:
- Your jawbone is still growing.
- You have gum (periodontal) disease.
- You have significant bone loss in your jaw.
- You have diseases that impair the body from healing.
- You have been using medications that suppress the immune system.
- You are a smoker.
- You grind or clench your teeth.
Before any decision is made, a thorough consultation with your dentist and an examination of your mouth will be conducted to determine the right options for you.
What steps are involved in getting dental implants?
Dental implants are placed in multiple steps and the whole process typically takes six to nine months.
1. Damaged tooth removal and jawbone preparation (if needed).
If the tooth still exists where the implant is going to go, it will be extracted either on the day of dental implant surgery or prior to it. In addition, depending on the condition of your jawbone, you may need bone grafting before dental implant surgery. If your jawbone is too soft or not thick enough, a bone graft can help provide adequate support to hold the dental implant in place. Depending on your jawbone condition, you may need to wait a few months for the transplanted bone to grow enough new bone to support a dental implant.
2. Dental implant placement.
During the dental implant surgery, your mouth will be thoroughly numbed with anesthesia. Then an incision will be made in your gums to expose the bone underneath, and holes will be drilled in the bone where the dental metal post will be placed. Then the post will be implanted deep into the bone to serve as the new tooth root. A temporary tooth denture or crown may be placed on top of the dental implant for appearance while the bone is growing and healing.
3. Waiting for the bone to grow and heal.
After the metal dental post is placed, you will have to wait for your bone to fuse with the dental implant in a process called osseointegration. This can take several months.
4. Artificial tooth attachment.
Once your gums and bone heal, a small connector post (abutment) will be placed on the implanted metal post to securely hold the new tooth. Impressions will be made of your mouth and teeth that will be used to make a crown. Lastly, the crown will be attached to the connector post and serve as your new artificial tooth.
How do I care for my dental implants?
Just like your own teeth that require careful at-home care and frequent dental check-ups, dental implants will also require the same level of care. You can take the following steps to help your dental implants last longer:
- Practice good oral hygiene by regularly brushing and flossing.
- Visit your dentist for regular check-ups.
- Address harmful habits such as smoking and teeth grinding.
Are there any risks to dental implants?
Although the success rate for dental implants is about 95%, there are a few risks to be aware of. These include:
- Bone loss
- Damage to nearby structures (e.g. teeth or blood vessels)
- Nerve damage
- Implant breakage or failure
- Sinus problems
The best way to increase the likelihood of success of dental implants is to keep your mouth in a healthy condition and avoid smoking and biting hard on your implant as it heals.