A dental implant is essentially an artificial tooth root that is surgically placed into the jawbone. One or more missing teeth can be replaced by attaching a crown, a fixed bridge, or a full set of dentures on top of the implants. The implant material, which is typically pure titanium, is extremely biocompatible and the bone treats the implant just as if it was made out of bone. The bone cells attach themselves to the implant in a process called osseointegration. After an initial healing period, during which the implant(s) is left undisturbed underneath the gum tissue, it is uncovered and connected to a small post that serves as the foundation for the tooth or teeth that the implant will be supporting.
Implants may be used to replace teeth in single-tooth spaces, groups of two or more missing teeth, or where the teeth are completely missing in one or both jaws. Once placed, the implants are used to support individual crowns, or bridges that are attached to the implants. Implants may also be used to help retain removable dentures more securely.
Most patients who are healthy with no restrictions for undergoing minor dental surgical procedures and who also have good oral hygiene are good candidates for dental implants. Your dentist will assess the potential implant site to determine whether there is sufficient bone volume and gum thickness to allow placement of an implant. We begin by providing a clinical examination that will involve inspection, palpation, and gentle probing of the potential implant site and adjacent teeth. In straightforward cases, simple dental x-rays are usually sufficient to examine the bone. In more complex cases, specialized implant x-rays, known as tomograms, are usually required.
Just like teeth, implants are not made to come out. Implants are not the same as natural teeth but they function and feel very much like natural teeth. For patients that have lived with removable appliances, the implant will feel much more secure.
In most cases, existing dentures and other temporary appliances can be worn immediately after implant surgery. There are exceptions, but our goal is to minimize any aesthetic concerns during the healing phase.
In most situations, a healing period of between 3 to 6 months is required before teeth can be attached to the implants. A temporary appliance can usually be made to provide function and aesthetics during this period. After initial implant placement, regular follow-up visits are required to ensure that healing is progressing as we would like. After the teeth are attached to the implants, regular check-ups are needed every 6 to 12 months. At these check-up appointments, the implants are inspected and examined to ensure that the supporting gum and bone remains healthy. X-rays are taken to examine the bone structure around the implant.
For the implant to function well and to remain healthy, proper oral hygiene must be performed at home on a daily basis. Special cleaning aids (brushes, and floss) are widely available. We will provide instructions on the proper use of these cleaning aids. It is important to note that no metal scrapers should ever come in contact with the implants because metal scalers can scratch the surface of the implants.