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Dental Implants

Last Updated: Feb 09, 2013

Dental implant surgery replaces missing or damaged tooth roots to give the look and feel of a perfect smile.

Dental implants are generally made of titanium, a strong and durable metal that allows the jawbone to grow into and unite to the implants without adverse reactions ensuring that they will not slip, make noise, cause bone damage or decay.

Dental implants are custom made to fit a patient’s unique jawbone shape, structure and density. Patients may choose among 150 dental implant manufacturers to best accommodate budget and needs. Dental Implants are an alternative to dentures or bridgework and the most natural way to restore a smile.

Why is it done?

Dental specialists recommend dentals implants to:

  • Replace one or more missing teeth for aesthetic and/or functional reasons
  • Prevent healthy teeth from moving around and damaging other teeth or misaligning the bite
  • Reduce further bone loss after a tooth has fallen out, been knocked out or has been professionally extracted
  • Restore malformed jawbones or teeth, which have never grown or have grown-in improperly.
  • Use an effective substitute for real teeth and greatly improve quality of life.

Risks

Minor and easily treated health risks include:

  • Infection at the implant location
  • Injury or damage to other teeth or blood vessels
  • Nerve damage that can cause pain, numbness or tingling in real teeth, gums, lips or chin
  • Body rejecting the implants a rare occurrence
  • Sinus issues – when dental implants are placed in the upper jaw protrude into one of the sinus cavities.

More than 95 percent of implants are accepted by the body, hold well and last for many years or a lifetime, if the patient is healthy, not diabetic or a heavy smoker and have sufficient bone quantity, quality and density.

How do you prepare?

Placing dental implants requires one or more surgical procedures; therefore, patients must have thorough evaluations:

Comprehensive Medical Exam

This includes dental X-rays, family health history, CT scans and a medical examination. Inform the doctor about any pre-existing medical history including heart conditions or orthopedic implants and provide a list of prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs and supplements taken.

Treatment Plan

Treatment involves an assessment issued by different dental specialists stating the number of teeth that need replacement, the health condition of the jawbone, the best type of anesthesia for the patient’s needs, and treatment.

There are two types of treatment: Same-day implants and two-stage implants. Same day implants allow doctors to place the implants in immediately on the same day. It conveys a higher failure rate because there is no proper healing period to allow solid integration between the jawbone and the dental implant. The two stage implants require a four to six month healing period depending on multiple factors such as whether the implants will be placed in the upper or lower arch.

Immediately after the procedure patients often suffer some degree of discomfort, swelling or pain. Anti inflammatory medication, antibiotics and some pain medication may be required. Patients will need to keep the implant site(s) clean, and should follow the dental specialist’s after-care instructions to increase chances of a successful placement.

Stages

The entire process of placing dental implants can take three to nine months or more from start to finish. Most of that time is for healing and waiting for the growth of the new jawbone.

The dental implant surgery is performed in the following stages:

  • Remove damaged teeth
  • Bone Grafting: preparing jawbone for surgery and healing period
  • Placement of dental implant metal post in jawbone
  • Healing period lasting several months
  • Abutment and artificial tooth placement - an extension of the implant metal post followed by the new artificial tooth (crown)

When Bone Grafting Is Required

Jawbones that are not thick enough or too soft may require bone grafting; an extra piece of bone generally from another part of the jaw or body transplanted into the jawbone's implant area for additional support. Transplanted bone takes up to nine months to grow enough to support a dental implant.

Bone grafting creates a more solid base for the implant since the chewing action of the mouth exerts pressure on the jawbone. Optimal support for the implant contributes to a successful surgical procedure.

Placement of Dental Implant Metal Post in Jawbone

The oral surgeon will open a patient’s gums and expose the bone. Then, drill deep a hole into the bone where the dental-implant metal post is placed.

The dentist will provide a temporary denture to replace the gap where missing teeth were to keep a good appearance.

Healing Period and Time for Bone to Brow Lasting Several Months

Patients need to provide enough time for osseo-integration, a process where the jawbone grows into and unites with the surface of the dental implants. It may take up to 6 months to provide a solid base and support for the new artificial teeth.

Abutment and Artificial Tooth Placement

Once bone growth is complete, patients may need additional minor surgery with local anesthesia to place the abutment – a piece where the crown will attach.

The abutment can be mounted at the time of placing the dental implant metal posts in the jawbone. However, people prefer to have a separate procedure for the abutment because the abutment juts past the gum line and are visible when they open their mouths. It remains that way until the new teeth are placed.

Artificial Teeth

Gums must heal for 7 to 15 days after the abutment is placed. Then, the dentist will take impressions made of the mouth and remaining teeth to manufacture the crown. Crowns are placed when the jawbone is strong enough to support the use of the new tooth.

Choose from two main artificial tooth types:

Removable implant prosthesis: Affordable, easy to remove for repair or daily cleaning, the removable implant prosthesis is more secure than the traditional denture. It is the preferred choice for those who have several teeth replaced in the lower jaw. It consists of artificial white teeth surrounded by pink, plastic gum mounted on a metal frame that is attached to the dental implant abutment snapping securely into place.

Fixed implant prosthesis: More expensive and convenient, each artificial tooth is permanently screwed or cemented onto an individual implant abutment. Patients cannot remove the tooth for cleaning or sleeping. Each crown is mounted on its own dental implant.

Some typical discomforts from dental implant surgery are:

  • Gum and face swelling
  • Skin and gums bruising
  • Pain at the implant site
  • Minor bleeding

If swelling, discomfort or any other problem gets worse in the days after the surgery, contact an oral surgeon. You may need pain medications or antibiotics.

After surgery, patients need to eat soft foods while the surgical site heals, which can take from 10 to 14 days. The stitches will typically dissolve on their own or a surgeon will remove them about 10 days after the surgery.

Results

Patients will see results if they are in a good health and take proper care of their teeth post-procedure. The new teeth will look and work similar to the tooth/teeth replaced and will last for years. Patients can extend the lifecycle of their new teeth by

  • Practicing excellent oral hygiene – keeping implants and gum tissue clean
  • Use brushes designed to clean the nooks and crannies around teeth, gums and metal posts
  • Visiting a dentist for checkups every six months
  • Abstaining from chewing hard items such as ice, nutshells, or hard candy that can crack or chip the crowns
  • Avoiding tooth staining tobacco and caffeine products
  • Seeking treatment for teeth-grinding if it is a problem

Procedure Types

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