Implanting a foreign material into your body can seem daunting at first. How will the implant feel and how will it appear? If you require an implant and are having some second thoughts about the procedure, let us help you by explaining further what actually happens.
Dental implant procedures are commonly conducted and are a safe and effective treatment for missing teeth. Missing teeth can be undesirable from both an appearance and a health perspective. One or more gaps in your teeth can make you feel self-conscious in public settings while eating, talking, or smiling, and can create a number of oral health problems down the road.
Luckily, a dental implant procedure can be very helpful in these situations and provide you with a tooth replacement that looks, feels, and functions just like a normal tooth would.
If you’ve got one or more missing teeth, and are trying to decide whether a dental implant is a good choice for you, let’s go through the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of the procedure.
What is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is a titanium post that serves as an artificial tooth root, on which an artificial tooth crown is fixed. It is surgically placed into your mouth and fuses with your bone to support a crown, bridge, or full denture.
A dental implant is made of titanium and bone-like ceramic materials that are suitable for your jaw. Dental implants provide a strong foundation for permanent or removable replacement teeth and are designed to match your natural teeth.
Unlike dentures, implants do not come loose. There are two main types of implants, endosteal implants, and subperiosteal implants.
Endosteal Dental Implants
Endosteal implants are the most common type of implant and are placed inside of the bone. They’re typically made of titanium and shaped like a small screw.
Subperiosteal Dental Implants
A subperiosteal implant is placed on top of the bone, instead of inside it. Subperiosteal implants are usually designed for patients who do not have sufficient bone height and cannot wear traditional dentures.
If you are suffering from one or more missing teeth, opting for a dental implant can be advantageous for the following reasons:
1. Solid Foundation
Implants are artificial tooth roots which provide a solid and stable foundation for replacement teeth. Dental implants do not slip or shift over time and therefore are able to provide the same stability as your natural tooth would.
2. Easy Cleaning
Dental implants do not need to be removed at night to be cleaned or soaked, rather they can be cleaned in the same as you would your natural teeth. This makes the cleaning process simple and convenient.
3. Shift Prevention
When you have a missing tooth, not only is it visually unappealing, but it can be disruptive to the alignment of your teeth, as your teeth may begin to shift with the extra space. When you get a dental implant, it prevents neighbouring teeth from shifting and this ensures that your jawbone and the contours of your face are preserved.
Dental implants are self-sufficient meaning they do not need to be anchored to neighbouring teeth or rely on them for support. Unlike a bridge, no part of the tooth structure has to be removed when a dental implant is placed.
5. Cosmetic Improvement
Having missing teeth can create difficulty for you during eating or speaking and can take away from your smile. Dental implants could be the ideal cosmetic solution to replace missing teeth and give you the most effective and natural-looking results.
Am I a Candidate for a Dental Implant?
Before any dental implant procedure is conducted, a dental professional will have to determine whether you are a candidate for the procedure. In order to be considered a candidate for an implant, you have to have healthy gums, have sufficient bone to support the implant, and good overall health.
A dental professional will need to perform an evaluation of your teeth and gums and take x-rays before they determine whether a dental implant is a viable option for you. In some cases, if your bone height is insufficient to support the implant, your jawbone can be built before the procedure is conducted.
If your bone is too thin or soft, a bone graft may be required to help create bone that is able to support the implant. Your overall health is examined to ensure that you don’t have any chronic illnesses such as diabetes which could interfere with the healing process, post-surgery.
Placing Your Dental Implant
A minor surgical procedure is involved with the placement of your dental implant into your jaw. The procedure is conducted in-office and is completed under local anesthesia. Placing your implant is the first step to building your new tooth. This process involves placing a small post made of titanium into the bone socket of the missing tooth.
You can expect to experience some pain and swelling following the procedure which can be managed using prescribed pain medications. If you feel extreme discomfort or pain, contact a dental professional or go to the emergency.
Healing following a dental implant can be slow and sometimes unappealing in terms of food. During the healing process, eat only soft and cold foods, and drink lukewarm temperature soups.
Typically, the waiting time between your dental implant placement and the placement of an artificial tooth or crown atop of the implant can be between two and six months. As the jawbone heals, it grows around the implanted titanium post which helps to anchor it into your jaw.
During this time period, the bone along with the implant are growing together through a process known as osseointegration. Sometimes speaking and eating may be difficult with a missing tooth, so a temporary crown or bridge may be placed on your dental implant before the permanent tooth is fixed into place.
Placing Your New Tooth
Osseointegration results in the growth of gum tissue over the implant. In order to attach your new tooth, your dental implant is first uncovered and a healing collar is attached. A small connector post, known as an abutment is attached to the post to help hold the new tooth.
The new tooth is created by making impressions of your teeth and creating a model of your bite. This allows the oral surgeon to see all of your teeth, their type, and attachment so that the new tooth can be created based on this model.
A replacement tooth — known as a crown — is then attached to the abutment. In order to ensure that your new tooth blends in with the others and looks like your natural tooth, the tooth will be colour matched to your natural teeth.
The end result of an implant procedure will be a new replacement tooth that feels and looks like your natural teeth — and functions exactly as they would too.
How do I Care for my Dental Implant?
The goal of dental implant surgery is to provide you with a tooth replacement that looks, feels, and functions like one of your natural teeth and hopefully lasts you a lifetime. Making sure your dental implant lasts as long as you do is certainly a possibility, as long as you ensure good oral hygiene practices and regular dental visits.
We’re all familiar with the standard dental advice to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. When brushing, use interdental brushes which can slide between teeth to help clean those hard-to-reach places.
It’s important to stick to this regimen to help keep your teeth and gums clean around your dental implant. To avoid any gum disease or tooth decay, always keep your mouth clean and manage the bacteria in your mouth by using antibacterial mouthwashes as well.
Finally, if you’re a smoker and have just had an implant placed in your mouth, it is the best time to quit the habit. Smoking contributes to bone deterioration and a weakened bone can lead to implant failure. Not only will quitting benefit your overall health but it can also help you avoid harming your teeth and gums, and help your implant remain firmly in place.
Choosing to get a dental implant procedure can be a big step and should only be taken if it is supported by a dental specialist like an oral surgeon who will perform the surgery.