Nothing can take the place of a healthy set of teeth, but when disease or an accident ends up in tooth loss, it’s good to know that there are options for restoring your smile. If you are self-conscious because you have missing teeth or you wear dentures, there is an alternative: dental implants.
Many patients choose implants to replace a single tooth, several teeth, or to support a full set of dentures. Implants are cylinders that are surgically placed in the upper or lower jaw where they function as a sturdy anchor for replacement teeth.
They are typically made with titanium screws and materials like zirconium, which are compatible with the human body and better support bridgework because they won’t decay like natural teeth. Best of all, your bridgework or dentures won’t slip or make noise because the materials in the implant fuse with your jawbone.
The Dental Implant Process
Dental implant placement is a surgical process that requires multiple steps and healing time between those steps. Not every step applies to all patients, but the most common plans include:
Remove Damaged Tooth
When an implant is required because a tooth is damaged and can no longer be supported by the jaw, the first step is removal. If the tooth has already been lost, patients move on to the next step.
If your jawbone cannot support the implant because it’s too soft or not thick enough, you’ll need a bone graft to create a good base for the implant. Bone is typically taken from another part of your jaw and grafted to the bone in the area where the implant will be placed.
Since your bone continues to make new cells, the grafted material will help to build up the jawbone so you’ll be ready for the next step. It takes a few months for the bone to be ready to support the implant.
Your periodontist surgically places the dental implant into the jaw with the top of the implant slightly above the top of the bone. A screw is inserted into the implant to prevent the gum tissue and other debris from entering.
The gum is then secured over the implant, where it will remain covered for approximately three to six months while the implant fuses with the bone, a process called osseointegration. There may be some swelling and/or tenderness after the surgery, so pain medication is usually prescribed to alleviate the discomfort. Our team will recommend a diet of soft foods, cold foods and warm soup during the healing process.
In the second step, the implant is uncovered and our team attaches a post, also called an abutment, to the implant. The abutment is the piece that will attach the crown to the implant. The gum tissue must heal around the post (about two weeks healing time), and once it has healed, the implant will serve as the foundation for the new tooth. With some implants, this step is not necessary as the implant and post are all one unit.
Artificial Crown Placement
In the third and final step, the general dentist makes a custom artificial tooth called a dental crown, based on a size, shape and color and fit that will blend with your other teeth. Once completed, the crown is attached to the implant post. This final step will be performed at your general dentist’s office.
What are Surgically Guided Dental Implants?
Innovations in imaging have made it possible to better understand how to approach dental implant surgery for each individual patient. CT scanning and imaging software can help your doctor better analyze your teeth, bone structure, gums and nerves to develop a more accurate approach for your dental implant procedure.
This technology can also help determine the correct placement for the implant, which translates to better jaw and chewing function as well as an improved aesthetic result.
Single Tooth Implants
A single tooth implant is a free standing unit and does not involve treatment to the adjacent teeth. If the surrounding teeth are healthy, they can remain untouched, and their strength and integrity may be maintained. The implant can stabilize your bite and help prevent problems with the jaw.
Implant-Supported Bridges and Dentures
Dental implants may be used to support a bridge when several teeth are missing. The bridge replaces the lost natural teeth and some of the tooth roots. An implant supported bridge does not require support from adjacent teeth.
If you are missing all of your teeth, an implant supported denture can replace the missing teeth and some of the tooth roots. Because the dental implants integrate with the jawbone, an implant-supported denture tends to be comfortable and stable, allowing you to bite and chew naturally.
What are Mini Dental Implants and Who Can Benefit From Them?
Traditional dental implants use abutments that are used to screw the new teeth into place. Mini dental implants don’t use abutments and they’re designed so that dentures can be snapped into place. Mini dental implants are smaller than traditional implants, so two are required to give the same level of support as a single tooth implant.
Patients with a lot of bone atrophy would be good candidates for mini dental implants to help hold their dental restorations in place and provide stabilization. They require a much less invasive type of surgery, and they cost less than their traditional counterparts. With mini dental implants, it’s even possible to replace all of your teeth in one day using only four implants.
While regular dental implants provide better weight distribution, put less stress on the jaw bone, and enable stronger chewing, not all patients are good candidates for them. Mini dental implants may be the best solution for those patients with a lot of bone loss and may not be able to tolerate the surgery and healing time required for placement of traditional implants.
Are Dental Implants a Good Option For You?
If you are missing one or more teeth, there are plenty of reasons to correct the problem:
- A gap between your teeth, if obvious when you smile or speak, is a cosmetic concern.
- Missing teeth may affect your speech.
- Missing a molar might not be noticeable when you talk or smile, but it’s absence can affect chewing.
- When a tooth is removed, the biting force on the remaining teeth begins to change. To compensate for the lost tooth, there is a risk of extra pressure and discomfort on the jaw joints.
- If a missing tooth is not replaced, the surrounding teeth can shift. Harmful plaque and tartar can collect in hard-to-reach places created by the shifting teeth. Over time, this may lead to tooth decay and periodontal disease.
- Bone loss can occur in the region of the missing tooth.
Are You a Good Candidate for Dental Implants?
If you are in good general health, have healthy gums, and a jawbone that can support a dental implant, this treatment may be an option for you. Periodontal treatment may be necessary to ensure your teeth and gums are in good health, as your health is more of a factor than your age.
Chronic illnesses such as diabetes or leukemia, may interfere with healing after surgery. And if you use tobacco, you are at a greater risk for gum disease, which can weaken the bone tissues needed to support the implant.
Meticulous oral hygiene is critical to the success of the implant. You’ll need to spend a little more time caring for the implant, making sure the area surrounding it is particularly clean. If your overall health is good and your teeth and gums are in good shape, Central Texas Periodontics can determine if you are a suitable candidate for a dental implant.
Most patients find that an implant is secure and stable – a good replacement for their own tooth. Implants, however, are not an option for everyone. Because implants require surgery, patients should be in good health and have healthy gums. And, patients either must have adequate bone to support the implant, or be candidates for surgery to build up the area needing the implant.
The treatment time for implants is longer and the cost higher than that of other alternatives. Regular dental visits are essential to the life and long term success of your implant. Some patients are scheduled for professional cleanings two to four times per year. Our team will provide you with a dental recall program to ensure the health of your implant and your natural teeth.
Central Texas Periodontics will also suggest a home-care routine to suit your needs, which will include brushing twice a day and flossing once a day. You may also be advised to use a special toothbrush, an interproximal brush, or a mouth rinse to help prevent cavities and periodontal disease.
Contact Us to Learn More
Central Texas Periodontics can determine if you’re a good candidate for dental implants by delivering a comprehensive dental exam (including X-rays and scans) and carefully reviewing your medical history. Our periodontic specialists are highly trained to evaluate your needs and develop the ideal treatment plan for you.
View our locations in Harker Heights, Cedar Park, Georgetown, and Pflugerville to book an appointment near you.