What are Dental Implants?
Simply put, your natural tooth is comprised of two main parts – the root portion, which is the part of the tooth in the bone and the crown; what you see in the mouth. Dental Implants replace the root portion of your lost tooth then an additional portion is placed that extends above the gum line to support whatever type of final restoration is needed such as a crown, bridge or denture.
How do I begin the Implant Process?
The dental implant process involves several steps – each one essential to ensure the long-term success of the implant and final restoration.
Consultation Appointment – The first thing you would do is to let your dentist know that you are interested in finding out more about dental implants. Your dentist will discuss your specific dental issues with you, take some diagnostic x-rays and let you know if your dental and medical health makes you a good candidate for this type of procedure. Not everyone can have a dental implant placed since you need to have a certain amount of bone available to support an implant. Your dentist will check to see how much bone volume and density you have in the area where your tooth is missing. If you have deficient bone levels, you may be able to have a bone regeneration procedure done which is designed to help restore bone to an area.
Diagnostic Appointment – After your initial consultation visit, the dentist will decide the type of dental implant that best suits your needs and take some additional x-rays so that precise measurements can be determined. After the consultation and diagnostic x-rays, the process for dental implants involves two main surgical procedures at least 4-6 months apart.
First Stage – At this appointment, the implant post is inserted into your jawbone. The site is then closed with sutures. This stage can usually be performed using local anaesthetic. You will then return to the practice about 10 days later to have the sutures removed and the surgical site examined. The site is then left to heal for several months. During this time, bone cells grow around the post so that the jawbone and post become fully and firmly fused together. This fusion period is essential so that the implant will not move and is strong enough to support the final type of crown, bridge or denture that will be place on it.
Second Stage – At this stage, the implant site is then reassessed and evaluated to determine if the implant and bone have fully fused with one another. If fusion has been successful, then another type of post, called an abutment, is placed into the implant post. This abutment extends above the gum line and an impression is taken. This impression is used by the dental laboratory to create your custom crown, bridge or denture.
Third Stage – Your final crown or bridge is cemented or screwed permanently to the abutment. If you are having a denture made, it can be made to be permanently fixed to this abutment or a removable alternative can be made.
Night Guard Protection – If you have a grinding or clenching habit, your dentist will recommend that your wear a night guard while you sleep to protect your implants and your investment from the destructive forces of this habit.
Follow Up Visits – Dental Implants are to be cared for as you would your own natural teeth. Maintaining your regular dental re-care visits is crucial to the implant’s success. Like any body part that is replaced, attending to re-examination appointments allows the dentist to evaluate the stability and health of the implant, bone and gum. Understanding that all of the teeth and their supporting bone/gum structures work together and support one another will help you appreciate why the health of all the parts of your oral cavity have a direct effect on your implant also.
Dental implants have the highest success rate of any other tooth replacement option. Implants have been around in dentistry for well over 50 years! They are designed to last a lifetime, so they are well worth the investment. The great news is that if you ever need to have the crown, bridge or denture replaced or replaced, it can be done so without ever even affecting the implant itself!
The long-term success of any body replacement part requires regular re-care examinations and maintenance so that the site and surrounding areas can be closely monitored for health. Of course, your mouth is not a car, but let’s use this analogy so we can drive this very important point home. You would never buy a new car, drive it and then never give consideration to its future maintenance. Your regularly maintained dental visits allow your dentist to inspect the implant for the presence of inflammation, bone loss, mobility etc. as well as the integrity/functioning of the restoration that is attached to the implant. As with any unhealthy condition in the body, early detection is key to effective and successful repair treatment.