Millions of Americans experience tooth loss at some point in their lives, whether from cavities, tooth decay, advanced gum disease, aging, or oral trauma. In the past, these lost teeth would be replaced with dentures or bridges. Thanks to technological advancements, dental implants are quickly becoming a popular tooth replacement option for one or more missing teeth, especially for those who cannot wear dentures.
One reason for this is that dental implants replace the lost tooth roots, making them a fixed or removable tooth replacement that blends in naturally with your remaining teeth. The implant – often made from titanium – replaces tooth roots using metal posts that look like screws. These are then surgically implanted into the jawbone. These will eventually serve as a sturdy base for the replacement tooth to come later (such as a dental crown). Of all the tooth replacement options available today, dental implants are the nearest thing to your own natural teeth as they look, feel, and act like your own teeth.
Another major benefit to dental implants is they preserve your smile while maintaining your mouth’s overall structure – as well as your facial profile – as they keep your remaining teeth from shifting out of their normal position. It means you can chew and bite without damaging your nearby natural teeth.
Just as with any other medical procedure, you want to be aware of risks. Complications are rare, but you can have an infection at the implant site, which could cause issues down the road. You will also need to have sufficient jawbone to support the dental implant, which means it needs to be thick enough and not too soft.
Your Initial Evaluation
Our oral surgeon will thoroughly assess your smile using X-rays and teeth models so that your dental implant will blend in with your remaining teeth. Your jawbone density will be evaluated as well as your current medications for health conditions, so we can determine if you need antibiotics beforehand to avoid infection. We will also review your anesthesia options, and you will be provided a comprehensive list of what you should and should not do before the implant surgery.
What You Can Expect From the Dental Implant Surgery Process
- We will take out the damaged tooth (unless it is already out).
- We will prepare the jawbone for surgery, which might involve bone grafting.
- Once the jawbone has healed, we can surgically insert your dental implant into your gum line.
- More time is needed as the jaw heals again, and you will need to wear a temporary, removable denture.
- After the jaw heals, our surgeon can insert the abutment. This part screws into your dental implant by attaching the tooth replacement on top (a crown or bridge).
As the jawbone fuses with the dental implant (in a process known as osseointegration), it is absorbed into the gumline just like your natural teeth and stays firmly in place. Depending on the tooth being replaced (for instance, a molar that handles a lot of pressure when you chew), your jawbone density needs to be able to support that. A bone graft can give your jaw the solid foundation it needs. It means surgically transplanting a small amount of bone or other material.
Your new artificial teeth can be fixed or removable, much like a removable denture where it is attached to a metal frame snapping onto the implant abutment (whereas a fixed implant is either screwed into the abutment or cemented in place).
If you are thinking of turning to dental implants to replace missing teeth in your smile, we welcome you to call our team and schedule a consultation with our oral surgeon. Your smile deserves the very best care!