If you’re missing one or more teeth, it’s important to discuss tooth replacement options with your dentist. Choosing to simply live without even a single tooth can lead to a multitude of oral health issues. While there are several different ways to replace missing teeth – such as dental bridges and dentures, for example – one method that has become increasingly popular over the past few years is dental implants. In fact, the American Dental Association (ADA) estimates that dentists place about 5 million implants per year in their patients from across the US. Given the fact that our population is aging, and the success rate of implants is around 98%, that number is likely to continue to grow for the next several years. If you’re considering getting implants and are wondering what is involved in the dental implants procedure, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll explain exactly what a dental implant is as well as the steps involved in getting one.
What Is a Dental Implant?
Advantages of Dental Implants over Other Tooth Replacement Options
When we say that an implant looks just like a regular tooth, we mean it! Your dentist can match the porcelain crown that sits atop an implant to exactly match the shade of your natural teeth. This means that no one will ever know you have an implant! But there are other advantages to this tooth replacement technology.
- Implants are easy to care for. You simply brush and floss as you normally would.
- An implant is a permanent solution to tooth loss. In fact, if properly cared for, an implant can last for several decades or even for a lifetime.
- Implants don’t slip inside your mouth. Other tooth replacement options (such as bridges and dentures) can move and slip inside your mouth. But because implants are fused to the jawbone, they stay put.
- Implants prevent other teeth from shifting. When you’re missing a tooth, it’s natural for your other teeth to shift in place to fill in the gap. An implant prevents this from happening, which keeps the teeth straight and the bite properly aligned.
- Implants prevent bone loss. Patients who are missing several teeth often experience bone loss as well. Implants prevent this from happening by stimulating the jawbone.
- Implants allow patients to have the same bite force as they do with natural teeth. This is not the case with bridges and dentures, since they sit on top of the gums and are not inserted in the jawbone the way that implants are.
The Steps Involved in the Dental Implant Procedure
Although the exact procedure involved in getting a new dental implant may vary somewhat depending on the patient’s oral health, typically the process consists of the following steps:
- Dental consultation/evaluation – The first step involves meeting with your dentist for a consultation and evaluation of your current oral health. This usually includes an oral exam and X-rays, which will determine the condition of your jawbone and whether or not your bone density is sufficient to support an implant. Your dentist will likely take an impression of your teeth as well. If your jawbone isn’t strong enough, you may need a bone graft procedure before you can get an implant. But don’t let this discourage you from the procedure. In fact, many patients who have lived without teeth for any period of time require bone grafting prior to the implant procedure.
- Inserting the implant — The next step involves the dentist or oral surgeon making an incision in the gum tissue, at the exact location of the missing tooth. The metal rod is then inserted into the jawbone. Over a period of time – typically between 3 and 9 months – the metal will fuse to the jawbone. This creates what is essentially an artificial tooth root. The implant placement procedure is considered to be oral surgery, and your dentist or oral surgeon will discuss your anesthesia and sedation options to ensure that you feel no pain or discomfort during the procedure.
- Placing the abutment — Sometime after the implant has become sufficiently stable, your dentist or oral surgeon will place an abutment on top of the implant. This abutment is what will hold the crown on top of the implant. The abutment placement procedure usually takes very little time and requires only a local anesthetic to numb the surrounding tissue. Once the abutment is placed, your dentist will cover it with a cap to prevent the bone and gum tissue from growing over the top.
- Affixing the crown to the abutment — The final step in the process in when your dentist affixes a crown to the abutment. This takes place after the implant has completely fused to the jawbone. The end result is very much like getting a brand new natural tooth!
What to Expect After Oral Surgery
As we mentioned earlier, inserting an implant into the jawbone is oral surgery. And thanks to modern dental sedation methods, most people feel no pain whatsoever during that procedure. However, you will likely experience a certain amount of discomfort afterwards while you’re recovering at home. You may also notice some bruising at the insertion site, as well as some swelling of your gums and face close to the insertion site, and possibly a small amount of bleeding. All this is normal and to be expected. Your dentist or oral surgeon will provide you with a complete set of instructions on how to recover fully and quickly at home.
If you’re looking for a permanent solution for replacing one or more missing teeth, we urge you to consider dental implants. Although the process takes several months, most patients would agree that it’s well worth the wait. To find out more about what is involved in the dental implants procedure, schedule an appointment with your dentist.