Understanding Dental Implants
Updated: Nov 14, 2022
Dental implants are the absolute best option to replace missing teeth. If you are considering an implant, there are a few things you should know about treatment. You'll need to understand the implant process and also how to care for your implant once it's in place.
What Are Dental Implants?
First, let's discuss the three parts of a dental implant: the implant, the abutment, and the crown.
The actual dental implant is a post that is "implanted" into the jaw bone. It replaces what would have been the root of the tooth. The implant has threads, similar to what you see on a screw.
These threads help the implant to integrate with the bone, giving the implant a very solid foundation.
An abutment is placed on top of the implant. This is a very small piece that is inserted into the top of the implant and protrudes above the gumline. It acts as a connecting piece to the crown.
An implant crown is the final piece of the dental implant. The crown will be placed on the abutment and usually cemented into place with an adhesive. The crown is the very last step of the implant process.
Why Choose a Dental Implant?
Dental implants are an excellent way to replace any missing tooth. They are a better alternative to bridges or partial dentures for many reasons.
First, a dental implant helps maintain the bone where a tooth is missing. Once a tooth is extracted, the body knows that bone is no longer needed in that area, so the bone begins to atrophy. If you choose to replace that missing tooth with a bridge or partial, the bone will continue to atrophy and will eventually impact the surrounding teeth. Over time, it is likely that the bridge or partial denture will need to be replaced.
Second, while it may sound invasive, a dental implant is actually the least invasive way to replace a missing tooth. If you choose to replace the tooth with a bridge, that means that the teeth on either side of the missing tooth must have treatment. If those teeth are perfectly healthy, you are compromising them by performing that treatment. The same applies to a partial denture. The partial denture will cause the other teeth to take more of your chewing forces, causing those teeth to break down with time. On the other hand, a dental implant affects only that one area.
Lastly, a dental implant will be easier to maintain and cause fewer problems in the future. That's not to say that there is no maintenance for dental implants. Patients must still have good oral home care and see their dentist regularly as implants can become infected if not properly cared for. However, they are much easier to care for than bridges and partial dentures. Also, there is a very high likelihood of the implant lasting the rest of your life. The same cannot be said of bridges and partial dentures. While a dental implant may cost more initially, they are a more affordable option over their lifespan.
Dental Implants and Dentures
Dental implants are not just used to replace one missing tooth. They are also a great option for patients who have dentures. Traditional dentures stay in place using one or more methods: suction (for an upper denture that covers your palette), gravity (for the lower denture), or adhesive.
Even using those methods, dentures are often uncomfortable and may move around when the patient is eating or speaking. Many patients find that they are nearly impossible to wear, especially if they have been missing their teeth for a number of years and do not have much bone left to support the denture.
Implants can be placed in the jaw to help hold the denture in place. Every case varies, but each denture will require 2-6 implants to support. The implants are placed just as they are for single teeth, but there are also connecting pieces placed in the dentures so that the two parts "snap" together. This keeps the denture in place while eating and speaking. No adhesive is necessary.
Who Can Get a Dental Implant?
We've said that a dental implant is the best way to restore a missing tooth. However, not everyone is a good candidate for a dental implant. For a dental implant to have a high success rate, the patient must meet the following requirements:
Have enough remaining bone structure to support the implant.
Be in good health and not have any underlying health concerns that would impact the healing process.
Be a non-smoker. Smoking impedes the initial healing process and affects the overall health of the gum tissue.
In order to determine if you are a good candidate for a dental implant, your dentist will review your health history.
The Process of Placing a Dental Implant
The entirety of a dental implant is not finished in just one visit. The treatment must happen in stages to allow for adequate healing. Replacing just one tooth with a dental implant can take several months since we rely on the bone to integrate with the implant.
Your case could vary slightly from the process we'll discuss here. There are many factors that contribute to how the treatment is performed. For instance, a patient who has been missing the tooth for a year will have fewer steps than a patient who currently has a tooth that is currently infected and needs to be extracted. Some patients require bone grafting while others do not. The steps that we outline will give you an idea of what to expect.
Planing the Implant
The first steps in your dental implant process require tests to make sure you are a good candidate. As we mentioned, your dentist will review your medical history and any other concerns they may have about treatment. You will also have a CBCT taken. This is a 3D x-ray that allows your dentist to see how much bone you have, as well as where all of your nerves are located. This allows them to make sure you have enough bone and shows them where they can safely place the implant.
Placing the Implant
On the day of the implant placement, you'll be given a local anesthetic, just like you would for other dental treatment. Your dentist will make a small incision in your gum tissue to expose the bone. A pilot hole will be made, and then the implant will be inserted. You will not experience pain as the area will be numb. Patients may feel pressure and vibrations, as they would with other treatment.
Once the implant is placed, your dentist may place a healing cap. This is a small piece that you may see above the gumline. Depending on which tooth you are having replaced, you may have a temporary tooth put in place.
The implant will need to heal for about three months. You will return to your dental office to have the impressions taken. Your dentist will take an impression of the area, which will then be sent to the lab so that your implant crown can be fabricated.
Placing the Implant Crown
The lab will take 2-4 weeks to fabricate your crown. On the day of your implant crown delivery, your dentist will place the abutment, the piece that connects the implant to the crown, and then adhere your crown to the abutment. None of this requires an anesthetic.
After your crown is in place, the process is finished! Your dentist may recommend waiting 24 hours to chew with that tooth.
If you have a missing tooth, ask us about restoring that area with a dental implant. They are the closest thing to a natural tooth that we can give our patients, and you will be happy with the result.
If you have questions about dental implants, call us today 706-658-2383. If you have any additional questions about your oral hygiene, please feel free to contact us at Traditions Dental. To learn more about Traditions Dental visit our About Us page. For more tips and information feel free to follow us on social media on IG @traditionsdental and Facebook @traditionsdental.