The Truth About Dental Implants

What is a Dental Implant?

A dental implant is one option for replacing a tooth. Implants are manufactured devices that are placed surgically in the upper or lower jaw, where they function as anchors for replacement teeth. Implants are made of titanium and other materials that are compatible with the human body.

An implant-restored tooth consists of several parts.

  • The implant, which is made of titanium, is placed in the upper or lower jawbone.
  • The abutment can be made of titanium, gold or porcelain. It is attached to the implant with a screw. This part connects the implant to the crown.
  • The restoration (the part that looks like a tooth) is a crown, usually made of porcelain fused to a metal alloy (PFM), but also could be an all-metal or all-porcelain crown. The crown is attached either to the abutment or directly to the implant. It can be screwed or cemented onto the abutment. If the crown is screwed to the abutment, the screw hole will be covered with restorative material such as tooth-colored filling material (composite).

An implant looks and feels like a natural tooth. It fits securely when you chew and speak. A single-tooth implant is a free-standing unit and does not involve treatment to the adjacent teeth. With a dental implant, the surrounding teeth can remain untouched if they are healthy, and their strength and integrity may be maintained. The implant can stabilize your bite and help prevent problems with the jaw.

What Happens During the Tooth Implant Procedure?

Treatment generally is a three-part process that takes several months. Your dentist may provide the treatment, or you may be referred to a specialist – such as a periodontist, a prosthodontistor an oral and maxillofacial surgeon – for all or part of the treatment.

In the first step, the dentist surgically places the implant in the jaw, with the top of the implant slightly above the top of the bone. A screw is inserted into the implant to prevent gum tissue and other debris from entering.

The gum then is secured over the implant, where it will remain covered for approximately three to six months while the implant fuses with the bone, a process called “Osseo integration. “There may be some swelling and/or tenderness for a few days after the surgery, so pain medication usually is prescribed to alleviate the discomfort. A diet of soft foods, cold foods and warm soup often is recommended during the healing process.

In the second step, the implant is uncovered and the dentist attaches an extension, called a “post,” to the implant. The gum tissue is allowed to heal around the post. Once healing is complete, the implant and post will serve as the foundation for the new tooth.

In the final step, the dentist makes a custom artificial tooth, called a “dental crown,” of a size, shape, color and fit that will blend with the other teeth. Once completed, the crown is attached to the implant post.

And now, maybe most important part.

We’ll try to answer if dental implants are good choice for you.

  • If you are missing a tooth, or teeth you could be an ideal candidate for implants, especially if your smile reveals missing teeth!
  • If you are uncomfortable with the way your dentures fit. Loose dentures can cause sore gums because of friction or food trapped under the bridgework.
  • Loose teeth from gum disease may need support.
  • Dental implants can give you a new base to support new teeth to function and feel like natural teeth.

In these instances, dental implants can help.

Success and failure rates for dental implant procedure.

Dental implant success is related to operator skill, quality and quantity of the bone available at the site, and also to the patient’s oral hygiene. Various studies have found the 5 year success rate of implants to be between 75-95%. Patients who smoke experience significantly poorer success rates.

Failure of a dental implant is usually related to failure to osseointegrate correctly. A dental implant is considered to be a failure if it is lost, mobile or shows peri-implant bone loss of greater than one mm in the first year after implanting and greater than 0.2mm a year after that.

Dental implants are not susceptible to dental caries but they can develop a periodontal condition called peri-implantitis where correct oral hygiene routines have not been followed. Risk of failure is increased in smokers. For this reason implants are frequently placed only after a patient has stopped smoking as the treatment is very expensive. More rarely, an implant may fail because of poor positioning at the time of surgery, or may be overloaded initially causing failure to integrate.

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