The side effects of living with a missing tooth or teeth can seriously interrupt your daily life, from difficulty chewing to trouble speaking. In the recent past, there were limited options available if you were looking for a solution for your smile. However, modern dental implants have been a game-changer! For nearly fifty years, implants have been the standard of care in providing a safe, long-lasting way to restore your natural smile.
Let’s take a look at what you need to know about dental implants and how they can help enhance the appearance of your mouth and your smile, make it easier for you to eat what you want, and even improve your speech.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are appliances used to replace a single missing tooth, multiple missing teeth, a floppy denture, or an entire upper or lower arch. They are crafted from titanium alloy, a material that has high compatibility with the body. The implants are placed in the jaw by a qualified dental professional and anchor the new teeth in place.
Once the implant area has healed, your dental team will take digital scans of your teeth or conventional impressions to create a replica of your mouth. This is then used to fabricate a small connector called an abutment that is attached to the implant to hold the new tooth. The new tooth, also known as a crown, is then attached to the abutment. Crowns are designed to look as natural as your own teeth, including the color and shape, so they’re able to blend with your natural smile.
An experienced, trained dentist will create a customized treatment plan if you are a good candidate for implants. This plan will document all aspects of care, including the surgical and restorative implant phases. In most cases, you will not need to visit multiple doctors to complete the process.
What does the dental implant procedure involve?
A dental implant procedure normally happens in three separate phases: the initial placement, impression, and delivery of the final tooth abutment and crown. Because every case is different and each patient responds to treatment in their own way, the length of the process can range from 3 months to 9 months, especially if bone grafting is necessary due to bone loss. While this may seem lengthy, the long-term success of implants actually depends on giving your body adequate time to heal and accept the implant before concluding treatment.
Phase 1- Implant Planning & Records
Once you decide that you want dental implant treatment, a dentist will examine the bone structure around the missing tooth or teeth by taking a CBCT, which is a 3D scan of your jaws. If the tooth is only partially gone, the remaining tooth structure will be removed at the time of the procedure. The proper bone height, width, and density are necessary to properly place an implant in the best location to provide a final outcome similar in appearance to a natural tooth. If there is not adequate bone, then grafting may be required prior to placing the implant. Grafting is a bit like spackling, so if this is necessary, you will need to wait a few months for the area to heal before moving on to the second phase. If bone grafting is not required, Phase Two could be initiated within the same session.
Phase 2- Implant Placement
During this stage of the treatment process, the dental implant will be inserted into the assigned location based on digital planning with the 3D CBCT scan prior to the surgery. This procedure usually lasts around 1-2 hours, and you’ll need to let the area heal for a few months. You will be scheduled for regular check-ups with your dentist during this period.
Phase 3- Implant Restoration
This final phase is known as implant restoration. Depending on which best fits your individual needs, your dentist will restore either a natural-looking dental crown on top of the abutment which is attached to the implant itself or a sturdy fixed bridge to the implant posts. If you need a full arch replacement or your denture replaced, then the entire teeth restoration will be attached to the implants. Regardless of the specific situation, your implants are the closest things possible to natural teeth, restoring functionality and greatly improving the appearance of your smile!
Why should you choose to replace missing teeth with dental implants?
If a missing tooth isn’t bothering you too much, you may wonder if there’s any reason to replace it. The truth is that sudden changes in your bite, including missing teeth, can result in other issues, including crowding, gaps between the teeth, or bone loss. When a tooth is missing, the other teeth along the same gum line will begin to shift inward to close the gap left behind by the missing tooth. This can alter the way your top and bottom rows of teeth fit together and also affects the long-term health with the bone loss around the adjacent teeth.
Like many things in life, minor dental issues can become major problems if left untreated over time. For this reason, you should replace a missing or partially missing tooth as soon as possible. This can help prevent you from dealing with the time and expense of major reconstructive dental work in the future.
What are the benefits of dental implants?
Unlike other options, a dental implant replaces the entire tooth, up to and including the root. In its capacity to function like a natural tooth, an implant can offer many advantages over alternatives. These include:
Durability– Most patients who are vigilant about their oral hygiene can expect their implants to last a long time.
Stops Bone Loss– After a tooth is lost or pulled, the jawbone shrinks, which affects the adjacent teeth negatively. Placing an implant in the missing space prevents the bone from continuing to be lost over the years. This is a HUGE benefit!
Feel and Look Natural– The most significant benefit is that you will be able to eat what you want with a confident smile! You’ll never have to worry about food getting under partials or your dentures moving around. Additionally, having all your back teeth allows for the proper chewing and mastication of your food and takes the stress off your front teeth, keeping them from wearing down prematurely.
High Success Rate– In general, dental implants will be successful in 95-98% of cases.
Natural Appearance – Dental implants are designed to look and feel like a natural tooth. Crowns can also be made with all-ceramic materials that match the appearance of your natural teeth. When you smile, no one will even notice that they’re not your real teeth!
Improved Oral and Digestive Health – Because it seamlessly integrates into the jawbone, a dental implant won’t increase your risk for tooth decay or sensitivity like dental bridges sometimes can. Being able to chew your food properly with all your teeth also allows for better digestion and fewer digestive complications.
Improved Jawbone Strength – Since they don’t rely on support from the adjacent teeth, dental implants can keep your jawbone strong, and because it’s needed to support the implant, no bone loss of the jawbone will occur, either.
What is the recovery process like with dental implants?
Following a dental implant procedure, some slight discomfort and inflammation for a few days after the area heals is normal and to be expected. Dental lasers can be used before, during, and after the procedure, minimizing inflammation and discomfort for a better experience. Applying ice packs will help reduce any residual swelling along with properly taking any medication that is prescribed. A soft diet will help minimize the amount of chewing you have to do after the procedure has been completed for a few weeks to give your mouth a chance to heal.
Caring for your dental implants
It’s important to care for and maintain your dental implants the same way you would your natural teeth. You should brush twice a day, for at least two minutes each time, and floss every night. A consistent dental routine will help ensure the longevity of your implants and maximize your investment. You should also visit your dentist for regular hygiene cleanings and oral cancer screenings every six months.
How long will a dental implant last?
While it will depend somewhat on your age, your overall oral health, and a few other factors, dental implants will typically last a very long time. Compared to other teeth replacement options, implants have an established track record of long-term stability. By scheduling regular check-ups and maintaining an excellent oral hygiene routine at home, you can help ensure your implant or implants will stay strong and healthy for years to come.
Restore your smile and increase your self-confidence with dental implants
Dental implants can be a permanent solution for missing or partially missing teeth. Once you’ve completed the process, they really are no different from your own teeth in the way they function and look. Unlike dentures, partials, or bridges, which can sometimes contribute to the bone and tissue degrading over time, implants help to keep the bone and gum tissue healthy and strong.
If you have missing teeth or are experiencing issues with smiling or eating, don’t miss out on another minute! Find a qualified dentist in your area, and you can achieve a beautiful, healthy smile.