Despite improvements in dental care, many people still suffer tooth loss — mostly due to tooth decay, periodontal disease, or injury. For many years, the only treatment options available for people with missing teeth were bridges and dentures. But, today, dental implants are available.
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are replacement tooth roots. Implants provide a strong foundation for fixed (permanent) or removable replacement teeth that are made to match your natural teeth.
What Are the Advantages of Dental Implants?
There are many advantages to dental implants, including:
- Improved appearance. Dental implants look and can feel like your own teeth. And because they are designed to fuse with bone, they become permanent.
- Improved speech. With poor-fitting dentures, the teeth can slip within the mouth causing you to mumble or slur your words. Dental implants allow you to speak without the worry that teeth might slip.
- Improved comfort. Because they become part of you, implants eliminate the discomfort of some removable dentures.
- Easier eating. Sliding dentures can sometimes make chewing difficult. Dental implants function like your own teeth, allowing you to eat your favourite foods with confidence and without pain.
- Durability. Implants are very durable and will last many years.
- Convenience. Removable dentures are just that; removable. Dental implants eliminate the embarrassing inconvenience of removing dentures, as well as the need for messy adhesives to keep them in place.
Can Anyone Get Dental Implants?
In most cases, anyone healthy enough to undergo a routine dental extraction or oral surgery can be considered for a dental implant. Patients should have healthy gums and enough bone to hold the implant. They also must be committed to good oral hygiene and regular dental visits. Heavy smokers, people suffering from uncontrolled chronic disorders — such as diabetes or heart disease — or patients who have had radiation therapy to the head/neck area need to be evaluated on an individual basis. If you are considering implants, talk to your dentist to see if they are right for you.
What Is Involved in Getting a Dental Implant?
The first step in the dental implant process is the development of an individualized treatment plan. Your general dentist may refer you to an oral surgery office to begin this process. The plan addresses your specific needs and is prepared by a team of professionals who are specially trained and experienced in oral surgery and restorative dentistry.
Next, the tooth root implant, which is a small post made of titanium, is placed into the bone socket of the missing tooth. As the jawbone heals, it grows around the implanted metal post, anchoring it securely in the jaw. The healing process can take from six to 12 weeks.
Once the implant has bonded to the jawbone, a small connector post — called an abutment — is attached to the post to securely hold the new tooth. To make the new tooth or teeth, your dentist makes impressions of your teeth and creates a model of your bite (which captures all of your teeth, their type, and arrangement). The new tooth or teeth is based on this model. A replacement tooth, called a crown, is then attached to the abutment.
Instead of one or more individual crowns, some patients may have attachments placed on the implant that retain and support a removable denture.
How Do I Care for Dental Implants?
Dental implants require the same care as real teeth, including brushing, flossing, rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash, and regular dental check-ups.