What are dental implants?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root placed in your jaw to hold a replacement tooth. In general, there are three parts to a dental implant :
- A small screw-like metal post implanted into the jaw.
- A small metal extension, which is placed on top of the implant.
- The replacement tooth that sits on top of the abutment.
Dental implants can be used as the support for a dental crown (replacement tooth), as anchors for fixed bridges, or as support for removable partial or complete dentures. In some patients one or more implants might be used depending on whether a single tooth is being replaced, multiple teeth are being replaced, or full denture support is needed. While the cost is generally higher than other options for replacing teeth, there are a number of advantages to dental implants. When compared to bridges or dentures, implants are generally more comfortable, since they look and feel like natural teeth. In addition, the lifespan of a dental implant is typically much longer than that of a bridge or denture. In some cases, dental implants may be the only treatment available for restoring missing teeth, based upon the complexity of the clinical situation.
What are the steps involved in getting a dental implant?
Once you and your dentist have decided on a dental implant, placing the implant typically takes more than one office visit. In addition, you may be treated by a number of dental professionals who all help in the placement of your implant.
In general, there are three steps in placing a dental implant
- In this step, a dental surgeon places the implant into your jaw. Over the next few months, the bone in your jaw grows around the implant, which secures it in place. While integration is taking place, your dentist may provide you with a temporary tooth to cover the opening where the implant was placed. Your dentist will also work with a laboratory to have a crown (replacement tooth) made to match the color, shape and size of your other teeth.
- Once the implant is secure in your jaw, your dentist will place an abutment (a small extension) on top of the implant. This small piece of metal extends up through your gumline. If your dentist uses a single-stage implant, you will not need this second step. With single-stage, the abutment is already attached to the implant.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT AFTER RECEIVING A DENTAL IMPLANT?
- At this phase, the dentist places the replacement tooth on top of the abutment, and secures it in place. The crown will extend below your gumline to look like a natural tooth. Once the crown is placed, you may need to visit your dentist a few more times to get the fit just right. Follow-up care is important for the long-term success of your dental implant. Your dentist will discuss a plan for at-home care and follow-up dental visits to help keep your implant, and all your teeth, healthy.
As you know, your own teeth require conscientious at-home oral care and regular dental visits. Dental implants are like your own teeth and will require the same care. In order to keep your implant clean and plaque-free, brushing and flossing still apply! After treatment, your periodontist will work closely with you and your dentist to develop the best care plan for you. Periodic follow-up visits will be scheduled to monitor your implant, teeth and gums to make sure they are healthy.
Implant vs Bridge
- A dental implant is an independent unit and does not need the support of adjacent teeth
- For a bridge, the adjacent teeth are modified (capped or crowned )to support the missing tooth/teeth, which can lead to future complications