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Are Dental Implants Right for You?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 52% of adults aged 20–64 and 66% of adults aged 40–64 have experienced the loss of at least one permanent tooth. Among those aged 65 and older, nearly 20% have lost all of their teeth.

Dental implants may be a good option for those who are missing one or more teeth due to an injury or trauma to the mouth, tooth decay or an illness. Your dentist can help you determine if this solution is right for you, based on your general health, the health of your gums and whether you have enough bone to support the implants.

What Are Dental Implants?

A dental implant is a permanent tooth replacement option that looks, feels and functions like a natural tooth. Implants often appeal to those for whom bridges or dentures are uncomfortable or who want to maintain healthy bone structure.

There are two types of dental implants, including endosteal implants, which are placed in the jawbone, and subperiosteal implants, which are placed under the gumline either on or about the jawbone.

A dental implant consists of three separate parts:

  • The body: This portion, which may also be referred to as the post, is constructed of titanium. This metal is lightweight but very durable and is rarely rejected by the body. It looks like a screw and is surgically placed below the gumline.
  • The abutment: This small section lies right above the gumline and serves as the connector for the visible part of the implant. Once the body (the post) has fused to the jaw bone, the abutment is screwed into it.
  • The crown: The visible part of the dental implant is secured to the top of the abutment. It may also be called the prosthesis.

How Do Dental Implants Work?

The body of the dental implant is like an artificial tooth root, fusing to the jaw and becoming a sturdy base for the crown. Because an implant is so strong, it can be a base for either one artificial tooth or several that are bridged together.

The abutment is attached to the body and serves as a connector, fastening the crown in place.

The crowns are custom-made to match the shape, size and color of the rest of your teeth.

When performed by an experienced dentist or oral surgeon, dental implant surgery is one of the safest and most predictable dental procedures available.

What to Expect During a Dental Implant Procedure

Dental implant surgery is usually outpatient surgery that is performed in several stages over several months, with healing time between procedures. The process involves several steps, including:

  • Removing the damaged tooth
  • Preparing the jawbone by grafting, if necessary
  • Placing the body of the dental implant
  • Bone growth and healing
  • Placing the abutment
  • Seating the crown

When Is Bone Grafting Necessary?

While those with strong jawbones are prime candidates for implants, this dental restoration option may still be possible for those with weak jawbones or who have experienced bone loss. A bone graft can be used to create a more stable base for the implant, increasing the odds of a successful procedure.

Bone grafts may be performed with natural bone from another part of the body or with a bone-substitute material that encourages new growth. Minor bone grafting can be performed as part of the surgery, but more extensive bone grafts may take several months.

Placing the Dental Implant

During the surgery, the oral surgeon makes a cut in the gum to expose the bone. Then, they drill a hole deep into the bone where the body of the implant will be placed. The dental surgeon then uses stitches to close the incision.

Once the body is placed in the jawbone, the healing process begins. During this process, called osseointegration, the jawbone grows around the implant and bonds to it. This generally takes several months.

Attaching the Abutment

After osseointegration is complete, it’s time for the oral surgeon to position the abutment. This is a minor surgery that is usually performed in an outpatient setting with local anesthesia.
To place the abutment, the surgeon reopens the gum to expose the dental implant. Then, the abutment is attached to the implant. Finally, the gum tissue is closed around the abutment, leaving it partially exposed. Afterward, the gums are given time to heal, usually over a period of a couple of weeks.

In some cases, the abutment is attached when the body of the implant is placed, eliminating the need for this second surgery. However, because this part of the implant has to remain exposed while the bone and gums heal, some people prefer to have it added during a second surgery.

Seating the Crown

After the gums have healed, you’ll have impressions of your mouth and natural teeth made. These impressions will be used to make the crown.

Removable crowns, which are similar to removable dentures, are made up of pink plastic gums and artificial teeth. They snap on to the abutment and can easily be removed for daily cleaning or repairs as necessary. Fixed crowns are permanently screwed or cemented to the abutment.

After the Dental Implant Surgery

After surgery, you can expect to experience the discomforts that are typical with any type of dental surgery, such as minor bleeding, bruising, swelling and pain at the site of the implant. Your oral surgeon can provide you with pain management advice, medication and aids to reduce swelling.

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Dental Implants

Implants are a great choice for those seeking tooth replacement options. Like any dental procedure, they are associated with numerous benefits, as well as some risks.

The Benefits of Dental Implants

Comfort: Traditional dentures rarely perform as well as your real teeth. While this may be minimized by ensuring that your dentures fit properly, some discomfort is typically expected. Dental implants, on the other hand, essentially become part of the jaw. They function similarly to real teeth and are equally comfortable.

Convenience: Implants are permanent, eliminating the need for messy adhesives to keep them in place.

Improved Speech: Ill-fitting dentures or missing teeth can make it difficult to speak correctly, causing you to mumble, speak with a lisp or slur your words. Dental implants are designed to fit perfectly and stay in place, making it easier to speak clearly.

Natural Appearance: Dental implants are custom-made for each person to match the color, size and shape of their other teeth. For this reason, they are pretty impressive imitations of real teeth.

Optimal Oral Health: A traditional bridge requires the supporting teeth to be reduced, which can weaken teeth and make them more susceptible to decay. Dental implants don’t require any teeth to be altered, and they also allow cleaning access between the teeth.

Durability: Implants are very durable, and when they are properly maintained, they can easily last a lifetime.

The Drawbacks of Dental Implants

Cost: The biggest drawback is their upfront cost. A single implant can cost several thousand dollars, and your dental insurance plan may or may not cover them. Your dentist or oral surgeon may be able to offer payment options to make the procedure more affordable.

Surgery: While dental implants are among the safest, most predictable dental surgeries, there are always risks associated with surgical procedures. Every surgery has risks of complications, infections, damage to teeth, nerve damage and jaw fractions. Some people may also react poorly to anesthesia, making surgery impractical.

Future Costs: Dental implants are made to last a lifetime, but in some cases, the dental crowns may need to be replaced. Depending on the number of replacement crowns needed, this can be a significant cost that may not be covered by dental insurance.

Time: From start to finish, the process can last for several months. After each surgical procedure, the jaw and gums must be given ample time to heal. The whole undertaking requires patience, which may be a consideration for those who want a faster solution.

How Can a Local Dentist Help?

Placing dental implants requires special training and extensive experience in correctly assessing the density and viability of the jawbone for supporting the implants and properly inserting the implants at the right locations. Look for a dentist who is board certified and has undergone further education and training in this procedure. A reputable dentist will be happy to provide you with the details concerning their education, training and experience.

We provide compassionate, affordable oral healthcare with an array of services, including dental implants. Call us today or use our online booking tool to schedule your consultation.

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