If one or more of your teeth are missing, there are a number of ways to replace them. Removable options include partial or complete dentures. Fixed options include bridges and dental implants. Implants are prosthetics that function to replace the roots of teeth and support replacement teeth (crowns). They are comfortable and usually look just like natural teeth.
What are dental implants?
A dental implant is an artificial root made of titanium metal. It is inserted into the jawbone to replace the root of the natural tooth. An artificial replacement tooth (crown) is attached to the implant. The implant acts as an anchor to hold the replacement tooth in place. Implants can also be used to support a bridge in cases of several missing teeth or complete denture in cases where all teeth are missing. An implant supported complete denture provides extra stability to the denture which aids in improved function and esthetics.
Where is this procedure done?
At Dental at the Met, we have two practitioners who have experience in placing and restoring dental implants. Most cases can be done in our office, however if there are complicating factors, we may refer some cases to a specialist.
Who can get dental implants?
If you are in good general health, have healthy gums and have enough bone in the jaw to hold an implant, dental implants might be right for you. If your jawbone has shrunk or if it has not developed normally, you may be able to have a bone graft to build up enough bone to be able to support an implant. A bone graft is a way of adding new bone to your jawbone. Prior to placing any implant, we will have a CT scan (a three dimensional image) of your jaws taken. This scan is done at another clinic and we will help you organize this visit. Once we receive the CT scan results (usually a week after your scan is taken), we will assess the positioning of various structures in the jaws and determine your bone quality and volume and whether you are a suitable candidate for implants or whether adjunct procedures will need to be done first.
How dental implants are done
We will perform an initial assessment and examination including x-rays at our clinic. We will also discuss the procedure with you and answer any questions you may have. At this first appointment, we usually create a rough plan of what your implant journey will look like. An important point here is that usually over the first few months after an implant is placed you will not have a tooth in the gap. Not immediately loading the implant with an artificial tooth generally allows for better healing, however there are options for immediate replacement of the tooth during the implant healing process. Please speak to us if having a tooth present in this gap immediately is important to you. After this initial assessment, we will refer you for a CT scan of the relevant area. Following this first visit, we will wait for the CT scan results. After analyzing the CT scans, we will develop a treatment protocol for your specific needs and can use these results to estimate the costs for the treatment and submit these estimates to your insurance plan. Prior to any appointments being booked, we will fully discuss the treatment plan with you and address any questions or concerns you may have.
During the first stage of surgery, we will place dental implant(s) into your jawbone beneath the gum tissue. The gum tissue is then stitched back into place. As the tissue heals, the implant(s) will bond with the bone and attach to the gum. The implant usually takes four to six months to integrate into the bone and heal. In some cases, we may attach healing abutment(s) to the implant(s) at this first stage. Whether or not we place a healing abutment is case dependent. A healing abutment is a small post that helps the gums to heal around the site of the surgery.
Sometimes, a second stage of surgery is needed after the tissues have healed. At this second stage, we expose the implant and place a healing abutment at this time if it was not placed at the first stage surgery.
After the implant has been tested to ensure it has integrated properly into the jaw bone, we can proceed with taking final impressions of the area, gum tissue, implant(s) that are sent to a certified dental laboratory to fabricate the crown (artificial replacement tooth) which will be attached to the implant. It usually takes the lab two weeks to fabricate your tooth / teeth.
After the artificial replacement tooth has been fabricated, we remove the healing abutment and attach your tooth directly to the implant. In some cases it may take more than one visit to ensure the new prosthetic tooth fits properly and looks and feels right. Caring for my dental implant(s)
Because dental implants are placed in the jawbone, the replacement teeth attached to the implants look and act in a similar manner to natural teeth. Like natural teeth, implants need to be kept clean using a toothbrush and floss. We will show you the proper cleaning procedure for the implant(s) to prevent peri-implantitis (gum and bone disease around the implant) from developing. Regular dental checkups are important so that we can ensure that the bite forces on the implants are correct and that your implant(s) (or the crown overlaying the implants) are not loose. As there are several components in an implant supported artificial tooth, it is possible that parts will need to be replaced over time. Generally speaking a dental implant and crown have the highest success rate of any tooth replacement option in terms of longevity and comfort. However, this does not mean that the tooth will be there forever once it is placed. As with any prosthetic or natural tooth, regular maintenance is required and there may be some ongoing costs for maintenance and repair.
What else should I know?
Several visits will be needed until the process is done.
Checkups will be scheduled over the following year so that we can be sure that your implants are working properly.
You will need to take very good care of your implants, even more so than your natural teeth!
Although rare, possible complications due to dental implants include bleeding, infection, numbness or injury to nearby muscles or the sinus cavity. In rare cases, the implant may not be successful because of failure of the implant integrating into the jaw bone.