Tooth loss is something no one looks forward to. If you lose one or more teeth, you have a number of options, one of which is dental implants. You owe it to yourself to be informed as possible about these options. With this in mind, we've created this section on dental implants.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are fixtures of titanium which are surgically screwed into your jaw bone. The implant is an anchor for a naturally-appearing false tooth or a set of false teeth.
The success rate of dental implants depends on where the implants are placed and their purpose. They are typically best placed in the front portion of your lower jaw.
Implants are great for replacing missing teeth. It is important that you have enough bone in the area of the missing teeth for the implants to be attached to. Implants are not only used to replace one tooth, but rather people missing most, if not all, of their teeth benefit greatly as well. Implants are increasingly being used to replace certain types of bridges and removable partial dentures.
Who is a candidate for dental implants?
If you're missing one tooth or all of your teeth, implants may well be for you. So long as you have enough bone in the area of the missing tooth to facilitate the anchorage of the implants, this procedure can yield terrific results. If you don't have enough bone for this purpose, a bone graft may be necessary.
If you have a small dental bridge or partial dentures (removable type), implants will be a welcome alternative. Implants are an alternative to a fixed bridge. The implant will last a lifetime, but the crown on top of it will last ten to fifteen years.
Overview of Dental Implants
Implants are surgically placed in your jaw bone while under anesthesia. It is a very time consuming procedure when having many implants placed. As this procedure is surgical, it is very important to research and find a well credited cosmetic dentist that you are comfortable with. For some people there are varying degrees of discomfort or pain, which subside in a couple of days. As with similar types of surgery, bruising and minor swelling might also develop shortly after the procedure.
How are Dental Implants Attached in Your Mouth?
The implant procedure is a surgical placement of the implant or implants in your jaw bone which requires a three to six month healing period before the implant restoration to replace the missing tooth or teeth. During this healing time, the bone grows in and around the titanium implant creating a very strong support. Dental implants can be rejected. Usually they are replaced with another implant of a slightly larger size. The rejection or "failure" rate is minimal, only 1 to 2% of all implant procedures. You must go without wearing your dentures for one day to two weeks after an implant placement. After the implant has "taken" and you have sufficiently healed, a very natural crown is placed on the implant.
When missing one tooth, your cosmetic dentist may use a Flipper to fill the space. A Flipper is a false tooth to temporarily take the place of a missing tooth before the permanent crown is placed on the implant. A Flipper can be attached via either a wire or a plastic piece that fits in the roof of your mouth. Flippers are meant to be a temporary solution while awaiting the permanent crown to be placed on your implant(s).
If you're missing one tooth or all of your teeth, implants may well be for you. So long as you have enough bone in the area of the missing tooth to facilitate the anchorage of the implants, this procedure can yield terrific results. If you don't have enough bone for this purpose, a bone graft may be necessary. A procedure of building up the bone is known as Bone Grafting. Bone grafting is common with dental implants. The bone that is used is one of three types. The preferred bone to use is taken from other areas of your mouth or collected in a suction device as the drilling of the sites for dental implants occurs. Sometimes bone is taken from areas such as a hip (this requires an orthopedic surgeon and an operating room). The third source for needed bone is a synthetic type. This is the least preferred type of bone to be used for this procedure.
Types of Dental Implant Procedures
Implants rely on titanium fixtures inserted into the jawbone. Most implants are made of titanium, which is very effective at fusing with living bone (osseointegration). There are two types of dental implants which your cosmetic dentist will discuss with you:
Root Form Implant
This screw type implant is shaped like the root of a tooth. This is the most commonly used implant and is used where there is plenty of width and depth to your jawbone. If your jawbone is too narrow or short for placement of the Root Form implants, bone grafting may be needed to allow for their placement. After you've received anesthesia, your cosmetic dentist will expose an area of your jawbone and prepare the bone for the implant. The number of incisions and bone preparations depend on how many implants you need. The implant will be set into place and your gums are closed with stitches. It will take three to six months for healing. After you've fully healed, your implant is uncovered and an abutment is attached.
Plate Form Implant
If your jawbone is too narrow for bone grafting, a Plate Form implant is placed into your jawbone. The Plate Form implant is unique for this purpose as it has a flat and long shape for a better fit into a narrow jawbone. After you've received anesthesia, your cosmetic dentist will expose an area of your jawbone and prepare the bone for the implant. The number of incisions and bone preparations depend on how many implants you need. The implant will be set into place and your gums are closed with stitches. It will take three to six months for healing (some Plate Form implants are immediately ready for restoration without the long healing process).