If gum disease, bone loss, tooth decay, fractures, or infection has led to missing teeth, one way to replace them is with a dental implant. Unlike a bridge or denture which both sit on top of the jaw, an implant is placed directly into the jaw bone with the intention of remaining there forever. Once a dental implant is placed, it feels and looks like a natural tooth.
While dental implants are a surgical approach to replace missing teeth, they require the least amount of maintenance once they are placed, and typically offer greater longevity than bridges or dentures.
Another reason you may require a dental implant is if your dentist has recommended a dental bridge and one or both of the abutment teeth (i.e., the teeth on either side of the missing teeth being replaced) are not strong enough to support the bridge.
If a dental implant is being considered, we will first examine your mouth and medical history and then take x-rays of your head, jaw and teeth to ensure that you are a good candidate for this treatment option. Some reasons why you might not be a candidate for a dental implant are:
(a) you have non-repairable bone loss in your jaw which will prevent the implant from remaining in place
(b) you have a pre-existing medical condition that prevents you from receiving this treatment option or,
(c) the procedure is cost-prohibitive as implants are the most expensive method of replacing missing teeth.
The dental implant procedure
A dental implant is made up of three parts, all working together to ensure that the final result is a secure tooth and will neither move around in your mouth, impact other teeth nor look unsightly or unnatural.
Before a dental implant is installed, your dentist will make sure no portion of the tooth that used to be present remains. An x-ray will be taken to confirm this, but if some portion of the tooth is present, your dentist will have to remove it during a pre-implant procedure. The x-ray will also determine whether the location of the missing is able to receive a dental implant.
A dental implant’s three parts are:
Typically, this is made from titanium, and resembles a screw. It is inserted through the gum tissue and into the jawbone. Over several months the root/fixture will bond with the bone securing it in place in a process called “osseointegration.” A bit of the root/fixture remains exposed above the gum line to connect to the rest of the implant.
The Implant Abutment
Once the root/fixture has healed, it is topped with an implant abutment, which connects the root/fixture to the implant crown. Think of the abutment as an anchor for the tooth.
The Implant Crown
The implant crown is the artificial tooth, custom-designed in the dental laboratory to function with your existing teeth. It is cemented or screwed onto the abutment to keep it in place.
The following is a video that explains the entire dental implant process.
The advantage of dental implants
Not impacting the adjacent teeth and longevity are the two most significant advantages dental implants have over other forms of tooth replacement like bridges and dentures. They are also easier to clean which leads to better oral hygiene, a healthier smile over time and a better treatment outcome.
The disadvantage of dental implants
There are few disadvantages to this treatment modality.
Check out Mayo Clinic’s dental implant surgery.
Dental Implants Q&A
Some dentists will perform dental implants themselves, but you may be referred to a dental specialist for treatment.
Caring for your dental implants is no different than caring for natural teeth because they are very similar to your natural teeth. You should brush and floss as you normally would, but your dentist may recommend additional daily steps to care for your implants. It is also important to maintain your regular dental visits so the implant can be checked by your dentist periodically.
Many factors impact the cost of dental implants, including the number of implants being inserted, the state of the jaw bone and the location in the mouth that the implant is being placed. Following your initial assessment, your dentist should be able to provide a cost estimate for dental implant treatment. Some insurance policies may cover your implant treatment. Once your dentist has had an opportunity to examine your mouth, they can send a cost estimate to your insurer to determine if the proposed treatment is covered under your dental plan and to what extent.
Are you missing a tooth or teeth?
Book an appointment to see if dental implants are right for you.