Dental implants are a popular treatment option for individuals who need tooth replacement. When a dental condition or physical trauma leaves you with a tooth or teeth missing, you may want to get a replacement as soon as possible. Dental implants are popular solutions in these instances and are fitted by specialists. Anyone considering a dental implant should understand the procedure and what to expect.
Understanding Dental Implants
A dental implant is constructed from a metal frame, usually titanium, and placed into the jawbone to support an artificial tooth. You can think of it as a synthetic tooth root. The implant offers stability for the new tooth by fusing into the jawbone, so the artificial tooth or dentures do not move around once fitted.
Dental implants are designed to look just like normal teeth, so it is hard to tell the difference. It is why dental implants are the top solution for restoring smiles. Also, they feel natural, which is more than can be said for some of the other treatment options out there. A dentist can fit a titanium post to anchor one, two, or all of the teeth, depending on the extent of the treatment.
Why Get Dental Implants?
When you want to restore functionality and the aesthetics of your teeth, dental implants are highly recommended for various reasons. For one, patients feel more comfortable with dental implants as opposed to other alternatives. Traditional bridges or dentures can cause poor ridges, gagging, and even sores in the mouth, which are risky for your oral health.
Missing teeth can negatively impact your appearance and, thus, your self-esteem. Lost teeth can degrade the bone structure and the facial muscles because every part of the face has a role to play. When you have teeth missing, smiling can be challenging, and that can make it hard to interact with other people. A confident smile can get you a long way both socially and professionally. Lost teeth can also make an individual seem older than they actually are because the skin around that area is loose. Dental implants can help tighten the skin, thus making a person appear young.
It can be difficult to eat some foods when you have loose or missing teeth. Dental implants open new opportunities when it comes to diets because you have more options. With implants, you don’t have to worry about eating only food that is easy to chew and you can better concentrate on eating healthy and enjoying what you eat.
Dental implants are highly successful, especially with the improved techniques, materials, and equipment that specialists have access to today.
The Dental Implant Procedure
Dental implant procedures may be performed with mild anesthesia with or without sedation. Before undergoing a dental implant procedure, however, an oral surgeon must first identify that you are a viable candidate and assess the site to see if the jawbone has enough tissue for the implant. If the location of the implant still has a tooth present, the dentist will have to extract it first. If necessary, the oral surgeon will perform an alveolar bone graft to get a solid base for the implant. In other circumstances, the site may not have a tooth in it but the jawbone may not be sufficient to fuse with the implant, which may require an onlay bone graft.
For implants in the upper jaw or the back of the mouth, the doctor may have to perform a sinus lift. These regions tend to have limited bone due to the maxillary sinus and may require a graft procedure. In instances where the doctor has to perform work on the location first, the patient may have to wait for several months before receiving the implant.
During the implant procedure, the dentist uses a specialized drill to place the titanium post. He then places a healing cap over the implant and stitches up the gum to facilitate the healing process. Dentists can recommend temporary dentures for the sake of appearance as you wait for the implants to heal (osseointegration). What happens during this period is that the jaw grows over the implant, which is why it is so strong.
Patients should take great care not to apply pressure in that region. Dental appointments are advisable to ensure a medical professional keeps an eye on the site. After a proper healing time, the dentist will then place the dental crown, which is molded to suit your color, size, and fit. Whether you are getting dentures or bridges, they have to be custom made, which is why a patient has to wear a temporary one as the dentist works on the prosthetics to be used for replacement. To ensure that the prosthetic is a perfect fit, the dentist takes a mold of your mouth and sends it to the lab. The replacement tooth or crown can be cemented or screwed in, depending on the dentist.
Dental Implant Candidates
Specialists look at a number of elements when determining the eligibility of a patient for a dental implant procedure. One is the amount of jaw bone available for the implant. A successful procedure requires the patient to have sufficient bone to accommodate the implant. However, dental surgeons can perform bone grafts to provide the needed material, but you have to know if that is possible first.
A good candidate should have healthy gums to allow the implants to fuse with the bone. Smokers may not be suitable candidates for dental implants because the habit interferes with the healing process in the mouth. Alternatively, a dentist can ask a smoker to quit before being reassessed for the procedure. A commitment to care for your oral health is another trait that doctors consider when evaluating your suitability for dental implants.
Dental Implants FAQs
Q: How long will it take?
The duration of the implant procedure depends on the type of treatment. If you are getting a bone graft first, then you may need four to six months, or even more, before getting the replacements. Usually, it can take three to four months to get the implants. In other cases, a dentist can fit dentures or bridges immediately after the implant, but ask first if you are suitable for this.
Q: What can I expect after the procedure?
The dental team you work with will provide instructions on how to proceed with aftercare, including how to clean the implants. The patient doesn’t have to do much, only preserve the replacements like natural teeth.
Q: Are there risks?
Because it is a medical procedure, there are a few risks associated with dental implant surgery. One is that the site may get infected, but this only happens when there is a lack of proper care. An implant procedure can result in nerve damage and, subsequently, pain in the natural teeth.
The nearby structures such as blood vessels and teeth may get damaged during the process if the dentist is not careful.
Q: How soon can I return to work?
Dental implant surgery is simple, and you may only feel mild discomfort in the first week. Often patients can return to work even the next day after the implant surgery and only have regular visits to the dentist.