Dental implants are artificial tooth roots used to support a restoration for a missing tooth or teeth, helping to stop or prevent jaw bone loss. The implantation procedure is categorized as a form of prosthetic (artificial replacement) dentistry, but also is considered a form of cosmetic dentistry.
People who have lost teeth might feel too self-conscious to smile or talk. Additionally, biting irregularities caused by tooth loss can have a negative effect on eating habits, leading to secondary health problems like malnutrition.
By replacing missing tooth roots, dental implants provide people with the strength and stability required to eat all the foods they love, without struggling to chew. Additionally, they help to stimulate and maintain jaw bone, preventing bone loss and helping to support facial features.
Teeth are lost because of:
- Tooth decay
- Root canal failure
- Gum disease (Periodontitis)
- Trauma to the mouth (tooth injury)
- Excessive wear and tear
- Congenital defects
To determine if implants are right for you, a consultation with your dentist, oral surgeon, and/or periodontist or prosthodontist is needed. During this appointment, your dental professional will thoroughly examine your teeth and gums and evaluate bone density and quantity. This may involve X-rays and computer tomography scans (CT scans) to ensure there is sufficient bone structure for placing the implant(s), and to determine exactly where they should be placed.
Based on the condition of your oral tissues, oral hygiene and personal habits, and commitment to follow aftercare instructions, your dentist will advise you of the most appropriate treatment plan. Some patients with insufficient bone or gum tissue require bone or soft tissue grafts and/or the use of small diameter implants (also called mini implants).
Depending on your situation, your dental professional will advise you of how long the entire treatment process will take, how many appointments will be necessary and what you can expect after each procedure. During the consultation, options for local anesthesia (to numb the affected and surrounding areas) and sedation dentistry, if necessary, also will be discussed. The estimated cost of your dental implants will also be discussed during this meeting. Costs can vary significantly based on the type of treatment you opt for (amongst other things).
Any underlying oral health issues must first be managed before implantation may be considered. Common issues such as tooth decay and gum disease can make treatment less effective.
If you are a smoker, your dentist will advise you to quit, as smokers face a greater risk of failure than non-smokers. Smoking can affect osseointegration, the process by which a dental implant anchors to the jaw bone.
Once your dentist deems your mouth healthy enough for treatment, your custom treatment can begin.
Placing Your Implant(s) – The Procedure
Today’s dental implant restorations are virtually indistinguishable from other teeth. This appearance is aided in part by the structural and functional connection between the implant and the living bone. The procedure is typically performed in a single sitting but requires a period of osseointegration.
Osseointegration is the process by which the implant anchors to the jaw bone. An osseointegrated implant takes anywhere from six weeks to six months to anchor and heal, at which point your dentist can complete the procedure by placing a crown, bridge or hybrid denture restoration. If osseointegration does not occur, the implant will fail.
Dental implantation, which is performed to replace missing teeth, can be done any time after adolescence or when bone growth is complete. Certain medical conditions, such as active diabetes, cancer or periodontal disease, may require additional treatment before the procedure can be performed.