Despite improvements in dental care, millions of people suffer from tooth loss every year. The primary reasons being tooth decay, periodontal disease, or injury. For many years, the only treatment options available for such people with missing teeth were dentures and bridges. But, today, dental implants are also available. Dental implants can replace your single tooth to restore function as well as esthetics.
Have you heard about dental implants? Dental implants are artificial tooth roots that can support a restoration of your missing tooth. It’s purpose is to help prevent jaw bone loss. The implantation procedure is generally categorized as a form of prosthetic (artificial replacement) dentistry. But some consider it a form of cosmetic dentistry.
If you have lost your teeth, you might feel too self-conscious to smile or talk. Additionally, your missing tooth might cause biting irregularities leading to chewing problems. Your lost teeth could have a negative effect on eating habits, leading to secondary health problems like malnutrition.
Dental implants will take the place of your missing tooth that would provide the strength and stability required to eat all kinds of food. You would not have to struggle to chew. Additionally, these implants help to stimulate and maintain jaw bone, preventing bone loss and helping you to support your facial features.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are nothing but replacement tooth roots. Implants provide you a strong foundation for fixed (permanent) or removable replacement teeth that can replace your missing teeth. They look like your natural teeth.
In simple terms, it is a surgical fixture. The placement of the dental implant into your jawbone and it’s fusion with the bone makes it stable. The healing process could take a few months. The dental implant basically acts as a replacement for the root of your missing tooth. In fact, this ‘artificial tooth root’ helps to hold a replacement tooth or a bridge.
The dental implant fused to your jawbone, stands on its own without affecting your nearby teeth. Hence, it is advantageous to have a dental implant. Moreover, this artificial tooth root has greater stability. This process of fusion between the jawbone and dental implant is called ‘osseointegration’.
Most of the manufacturers use titanium to make dental implants today. This substance can easily integrate with your bone as it cannot be recognized as a foreign object. Over time, technology and science have progressed to greatly improve the outcomes of these dental implant placements. Today, surprisingly, the success rate for dental implants is nearly 98%.
You can lose your teeth due to the following reasons:
- Tooth decay
- Root canal failure
- Gum disease (Periodontitis)
- Tooth injury or trauma to the mouth
- Excessive wear and tear
- Congenital disabilities
Types of Dental Implants
There are more than 60 companies that manufacture dental implants and the materials used to create the restorations that are placed on top of them. As a result, your dentist might have many options for identifying the right treatment for you.
You can categorize dental implants based on the type of procedure used to place them. They could be two-stage or single-stage.
1 Two-Stage Implants: In a two-stage procedure, your dentist will conduct surgery to place the implant into your jaw bone and close or stitch the gum tissue. After several months of healing, you have to undergo a minor surgery for attachment of an abutment and temporary restoration.
2 Endosteal (Endosseous) Implants: Your dentist will place endo steals in your jaw bone. This is the most common type for two-stage implant procedures. It acts as an alternative to a bridge or removable denture. Endosteal implants include cylinder types (smooth), screw types (threaded) or bladed types.
3 Single-Stage Dental Implants: During this surgery, your dentist will place a longer implant into the jaw so that it is on the jaw bone and close the gum tissue. Subsequently, your gum is allowed to heal with your implant healing cap visible. After a few months of healing, abutment and temporary restoration is attached. The head is exposed, and it is done without minor surgery.
4 Subperiosteal Implants: These implants are placed on your jaw bone within the gum tissue. The metal implant post is exposed, which holds the restoration. The subperiosteal is not much used today. They were primarily used to hold dentures in place in patients who had insufficient bone height.
Advantages of Dental Implants
Here are a few advantages to dental implants:
- Improved appearance. Implants look and feel like your own natural teeth. In short, the design is such that they fuse with your bone and become permanent.
- Improved speech. With poor-fitted dentures, your teeth can slip within the mouth, causing you to mumble or slur your words. Implants allow you to speak properly without having to worry that your teeth might slip.
- Easy to eat. If you have sliding dentures, it can make your chewing difficult. Implants function like your own teeth and allow you to eat your favorite foods with confidence and without pain.
- Improved comfort. Because implants become part of your mouth, implants eliminate the discomfort of removable dentures.
- Increased self-esteem. Implants can give you back your smile. As a result, it can help you feel better about yourself.
- Improved oral health. Dental implants would not require reducing other teeth as a tooth-supported bridge does. Your nearby teeth will not be altered to support your dental implant. All your other teeth are left untouched and intact. This actually helps to improve your long term oral hygiene. Your stand alone implants also allow easier access in between your teeth which in turn improves oral health.
- Durability. Implants are very durable and can last for many years. If you take good care of them, these implants may last a lifetime.
- Convenience. Implants are very convenient to use. With dental implants you can eliminate the embarrassing inconvenience of removing dentures.
Placing Your Dental Implants – The Procedure
Today’s dental implant restorations are very similar to your natural teeth. This helps to build a structural and functional connection between the implant and the living bone.
Osseointegration is the process by which your implant anchors to your jaw bone. An osseointegrated implant typically takes six weeks to six months to anchor and heal. After which, your dentist will complete the procedure by placing a bridge, crown, or hybrid denture restoration. The lack of osseointegration will cause loosening of implant in your bone which decreases the success rate of your implant.
Your dentist can place dental implants on any missing tooth. After adolescence or when your bone has grown completely you can undergo a implant surgery. But you might require additional treatment before the procedure if you have certain medical conditions. These conditions could be – active diabetes, cancer or periodontal disease.
Preparing the Jaw for Implantation: Your dental implant and restoration are composed of a titanium material screw and a crown. First, your dentist will drilled a small-diameter hole or pilot hole at the edentulous (where there is no tooth) section of your jaw. He will do this to guide the titanium implant fixture in place.
Your dentist or surgeon must have great skill and expertise to avoid damaging your vital jaw and face structures during the surgery.
Placement: After drilling the pilot hole in your jaw site, your dentist will widened it to place the implant screw. Once in place, your dentist will secure the surrounding gum tissue the implant and will place a protective cover screw on top of the site. After a few months of healing, your dentist will uncover your implant and attach an abutment. Finally, your dentist will complete the process by replacing the temporary crown with a final crown.
Recovery, Follow-up & Aftercare
The dental implant recovery process depends on several factors. For example, your dentist might need different procedures to complete your treatment. In addition, you need to maintain diligent oral hygiene habits after your implant surgery. This would help the implant to properly integrate with your bone structure.
If you fail to floss and brush, it can contribute to the failure of the treatment. Meaning unhygienic conditions could lead to infection, which means failure of treatment. Your should clean the dental implant and the surrounding areas to avoid infection. Even smoking can be attribute to high failure rates. Hence you should avoid smoking following your implant procedure.
If you have provisional restorations placed along with the implants, it becomes more important to clean them as you clean your natural teeth. These small precautions would ensure the best possible healing and fusing.
After you have the initial surgical procedure, try to keep your discomfort minimal. You might notice swelling of your gums and face as well as minor bleeding and bruising of the implant site. Just follow your dentist’s instructions and take pain medications prescribed by your dentist. This would help to relieve any pain or discomfort you feel after the procedure.
You should restrict your diet to soft foods for six to seven days after surgery. This is because, after surgery your dentist needs to remove the stitches. However, if you have self-dissolving stitches that would not require removal.
The healing process from the surgical procedure to place your implant generally takes around six months. While the fitting and seating of the crown can take up to two months. Again, this timeframe solely depends on individual cases and treatments. Follow-up appointments with your doctor are essential for monitoring your progress. If you care properly, it can remain in place for a lifetime.