If you’re missing one or two of your teeth or would prefer not to have full or partial dentures or bridgework, you might be considering opting for dental implants. The procedure fills in the gaps between your teeth to maintain your mouth’s structural integrity and ensure an aesthetically, pleasing smile. The dental implants are made to look, feel, and function just like real and natural teeth.
Why Dental Implants?
Getting dental implants has become increasingly popular because millions of Americans still suffer from tooth decay, tooth loss, and periodontal disease and injury. According to the Global Foundation of Oral Rehabilitation (FOR), 69% of adults aged between 35 and 44 are missing at least one permanent tooth. Additionally, more than half of the individuals above the age of 74 have lost all of their teeth.
These statistics are relatively high. Thus, there is a high demand for dental implants. Suppose you have missing teeth and are thinking of opting for this procedure. In that case, you might be wondering how the dental implants procedure works, what the results are like, the pros and cons of the process, and how you can prepare yourself for it.
While the procedure may seem arduous and scary, it’s quite simple. To help you out and dispel your anxieties, we’ve made a complete guide on dental implants, detailing the entire procedure.
Keep reading to know everything about dental implants!
What Are Dental Implants?
It is a procedure where tooth roots are replaced with metal screws and fixtures and damaged, or missing teeth are replaced with artificial ones. A dental implant consists of a metal post at the bottom of an artificial tooth, and it functions just like a real tooth.
The dental implants procedure varies depending on several factors. These include each patient’s condition, the structure of their jawbone, and the implant they are getting. However, here is an overview of how dental implants work:
- The jaw heals tightly around the metal implant after it’s fixed – a process called osseointegration. Titanium is often used for this part because it fuses well with the jawbone
- The bone heals and bonds with the metal implant. This process requires time, which is why it takes months to complete
- Artificial teeth or a crown are placed on top to look and feel just like real teeth
Unlike other treatments for tooth loss, dental implants last you your entire life without requiring replacements. But this is likely only if they are adequately cared for. Moreover, unlike dentures, dental implants are fixed into the teeth, so you don’t have to worry about them falling off.
Furthermore, dental implants are not a novel procedure. Dentists first used them in the mid-1960s, and ever since then, more and more dentists have been researching how to perfect this procedure. Therefore, the dental implants procedure is well developed and a long-lasting solution. Dental implants are also the most recommended option for missing teeth replacement.
Types of Dental Implants
Dental implants are categorized into three different types based on the number of teeth that need to be replaced. These types are single tooth implants, multiple dental implants, and full mouth dental implants. Let’s discuss them in detail below.
1. Single Tooth Implants
If you’re missing one tooth, then you can opt for a single tooth implant. It is an excellent option because it does not involve using a bridge, which causes a lot of pressure and damage to the surrounding teeth. Single tooth implants are usually recommended for front tooth replacements. They maintain the natural functionality of your jaw.
2. Multiple Dental Implants
This is usually done if multiple neighboring teeth have to be replaced. For this procedure, you might need two dental implants. However, it is up to the dentist, who will decide after evaluating your condition.
3. Full Mouth Dental Implants
This involves replacing all of your teeth and restoring your smile. These dental implants are either removable or fixed, depending on your preference and the dentist’s evaluation of your condition.
Are Implants a Good Choice For You?
A dental implant procedure may be the right choice for you if you have:
- One or more missing teeth
- A jawbone that is fully grown
- Enough bone to support the implant or can get bone grafts
- Healthy oral tissues
- Health conditions that enhance healing of the bone
- If you are unable or cannot wear dentures
- Willingness to commit to the process for several months
How Dental Implants Work: The Procedure
Because dental implants include multiple surgical procedures, various specialists will analyze your condition before the dental implant procedure begins. The specialist, be it an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, an ENT specialist, a prosthodontist, or a periodontist, will also discuss the most suitable anesthesia option for you.
Other than that, several other examinations are also conducted. These include a comprehensive dental exam in which X-rays and 3D images of the jaws are taken. The surgeon or dentist will also review your medical history, including medications and prescriptions, as well as any underlying medical condition you may have. Lastly, the dentist will then make a treatment plan tailored to your requirements, after which the procedure will begin.
The surgery is done after the jawbone has healed around the implant altogether. Moreover, the surgery itself is done in several stages, so the dental implants procedure takes months to complete. The surgery includes the following stages
1. Removing the Damaged Tooth if it is Still There
The area of the implant needs to be empty so that the dentist can place the implant. If the damaged tooth remains, then that is removed.
2. Preparing the Jawbone for Surgery
Your jawbone needs to be thick before the implant is placed. This is because the jaw is responsible for chewing; thus, the bone needs to be hard enough to withstand the chewing pressure. Depending on your jawbone and thickness, you may require bone grafting to build a solid foundation.
In bone grafting, a piece of bone is transplanted into your jaw to build a more substantial base for the implant. The dentist can use several materials for grafting the bone. They may stick to a natural bone graft, for instance, from the upper or lower area of your jaw. If they stick to this method, they will make sure the area is slightly away from the implant. On the other hand, the dentist may use a synthetic bone instead.
During this time, osseointegration will be taking place. During this process, the jaw heals and grows around the implant area. This process can take up to several months.
3. Placing the Abutment
After the jaw heals and the osseointegration process is complete, the abutment is installed. The abutment is a material placed inside the dental implant onto which the artificial tooth or crown is placed. This surgery is minor and often conducted in an outpatient setting. It also only requires local anesthesia.
To attach the abutment, the dentist opens up the gum tissues near the dental implant area. After securing the abutment, the gum area is then closed. In some cases, the dentist attaches the abutment to the metal post when the post is implanted.
Doing this involves skipping a surgical procedure, which is often what patients prefer. However, this exposes the abutment, making it visible when you open your mouth. It remains this way until the dentist completes the process of tooth prosthesis.
After placing the abutment, the gums are given time to heal for about two weeks before the dentist places the artificial tooth or crown.
4. Placing the Artificial Teeth
Once your gums have healed, the dentist will make more impressions of your mouth and the remaining teeth to create the dental implant’s artificial tooth or crown. The dentist cannot place the crown until your jawbone is strong enough to hold it, so you have to wait for the teeth until your jaws are strong enough.
At this stage, you and your dentist will evaluate whether removable, fixed or a combination of both types of artificial teeth is suitable for you.
Opting for removable artificial teeth is similar to getting a denture. It includes white teeth with a pink gum placed on a metal frame attached to the abutment. This is an excellent option because you can remove them whenever you want and clean them easily.
If you choose to take the fixed teeth route, the teeth won’t be as easy to clean or replace. It’s either permanently fixed to the abutment or cemented down. This is also the more expensive option because each implant is attached to its crown.
After the Dental Implant Procedure
Whether your dental implant procedure was completed in one stage or several stages, you should expect discomfort and pain as that is natural. Here are some symptoms you may experience after the procedure:
- Swelling of gums and face
- Minor bleeding in gums or mouth
- Bruising of skin and gums
- Pain at the implant site
To help you heal after the procedure, your dentist may prescribe you with pain medication or antibiotics. They will also recommend a soft-food diet, so you don’t put too much pressure on your new implants. If pain and discomfort are too intense or persists for long, you must contact your dentist immediately as that may be indicative of a bigger problem.
While most of the dental implant procedures are successful, there can be a chance of complications. However, they can be avoided by doing the following things:
- Avoid using tobacco products as they can cause infection
- Brush twice a day and floss once a day. Make sure to keep your implants and gums clean at all times
- Go to your dentist for checkups on a routine basis to ensure your implants are functioning properly
- Avoid chewing hard items, such as ice or candies, because they can harm your dental implants
- Avoid tooth-staining products, like caffeine
Dental Implant Procedure Risks
As mentioned earlier, most of the dental implant procedures are successful. The average success rate of the procedure is estimated to be around 97%. However, every procedure does have its risks, and this is why dentists conduct thorough evaluations before commencing the dental implant procedure. Risks include:
- Infection in the implant area
- Injury or damage to surrounding teeth or blood vessels
- Sinus problems may occur if the dental implant was carried out on the upper jaw as it may protrude towards the sinus cavities
- Nerve damage causing pain, numbness, or tingling in teeth, gums, chin, or lips
These risks are usually minor and rarely occur. Moreover, the dentist can also easily treat them.
Pros & Cons of Dental Implant Procedure
- The most durable tooth replacement procedure
- High success rate
- Look just like regular teeth
- Prevents reabsorption and stimulates bone growth
- Process can be very long
- Additional procedures, such as tooth extraction or bone grafting, may be necessary
Now that you know everything about the dental implant procedure, what happens post-surgery, and the risks involved, you may realize that the dental implants procedure isn’t that daunting.
It is quite like a routine procedure that has minimal risks involved. However, you may expect pain and discomfort during the procedure and even after the procedure. This discomfort is normal and usually nothing out of the ordinary.
All in all, the dental implant procedure is quite simple and convenient. Although the procedure is time-consuming, it is rewarding at the end when you get new shiny teeth!
If you think you may require dental implants, or have been experiencing prolonged and persistent pain after a dental implants procedure, contact Dr. Owyoung or our staff immediately.