Dental implants have a huge impact on not only a patient’s oral health but their overall self-esteem. This treatment is a long-term solution for replacing missing teeth and restoring smiles. They are one of the most popular methods in treating tooth loss because of how similar they are to a natural tooth. Unlike other methods, like dentures or bridges, dental implants are permanent fixtures that function and feel natural. Patients are often intimidated by dental implant procedures but hopefully, this post will answer some of your questions and help ease your nerves.
How do dental implants work?
Dental implants are made up of three parts: the base, connector, and crown. The base is a titanium fixture that creates an artificial tooth root by being placed under the surface of the gums and overtime fusing to the jawbone. This screw-like implant establishes a permanent, safe, and strong base so the remainder of the replacement tooth can be attached. The connector also referred to as the abutment, is used to secure the crown to the base. Lastly, the crown is the ‘tooth’ part of the implant that is visible. It is typically made out of ceramic and is constructed to resemble a natural tooth. Additionally, dental implants can be used to anchor mounts for bridges and dentures.
Who needs dental implant treatment?
There is a common misconception that dental implants are for old people that have completely let their oral health go. However, adults of all ages and oral health status’ often need dental implants. This treatment is common for patients who have had to have teeth removed because of injury, infection, or decay and even patients who were born without a tooth or two. Typically, the procedure is recommended if a patient, of any age, has one or more teeth missing and their facial structure has completely developed. This treatment can be used to replace one tooth, multiple teeth, and even a full set of teeth.
How long does a dental implant treatment take?
Treatment time can vary in length depending on the needs of the individual patient, but every dental implant surgery will be done in stages and can take several months. To start, your dentist will do a complete dental exam to analyze x-rays, medical history, and overall oral health so they are able to create an effective plan before moving onto the surgery.
During the surgical appointments, an anesthetic will be administered to make the procedure as comfortable as possible. Once your oral surgeon is ready to place the implant, they will open the area to expose the jawbone where they will drill into to insert the base of the implant. After this stage, there will then be a waiting period so the base is able to heal, become secure, and fuse to the jawbone.
To attach the connector, or abutment, your surgeon will reopen the gum to connect it to the base and then close the tissue around it. The gums need roughly two weeks on average to heal before the next step can be done. Once the gums have healed and the jawbone is strong enough, the crown of the implant will be attached.
As previously stated, this treatment can take longer or shorter depending on each individual situation. Some factors, including the need for bone grafting, tooth removal, or more healing time, can prolong the treatment. After the procedure, it is common to experience swelling, bruising, and pain in your gums and face but your surgeon can offer methods to decrease these side effects.
What is the difference between dental implants and dentures?
Both dental implants and dentures are good options when it comes to restoring smiles but each method meets different needs for patients. Your dentist will be able to offer the most specific recommendations in relation to your situation, but we will go through the basic differences between the two. In terms of stability, dental implants are rooted in your jawbone and do not create a worry of slippage while dentures, both partial and full, are not fixed in the mouth and are at risk of coming loose or out of place. Partial dentures can also be damaging to the adjacent natural teeth they rely on and are supported by. Dentures also come with the risk of jawbone shrinkage which can lead to needing replacement dentures. Jawbone shrinkage happens when teeth are missing because there are not any supporting structures keeping it in shape which can alter the way dentures fit over time.
- Permanent artificial teeth
- Fixed into the jawbone to act as a new tooth root
- Ideal for patients in good oral health with few missing teeth
- Removable replacement teeth that are attached to a metal framework
- Partial dentures are secured by connecting the framework to adjacent remaining teeth or a cemented bridge
- Complete dentures replace all of the natural teeth and are held in place by natural suction
How strong are dental implants compared to real teeth?
Currently, dental implants are the strongest tooth replacement option and are meant to function as natural teeth would, however, it does depend on the health and strength of the jawbone. Natural teeth have natural movement as they are anchored into the gums by roots and ligaments where implants are anchored into the jawbone and should not move at all. In this sense, dental implants should be able to withstand more pressure than a natural tooth if the jawbone is in good health. A stable jawbone is the foundation for successful dental implants which is why bone grafting can be required and proper healing is critical. If the gums are healthy and the bone is strong, dental implants will be able to function just as real teeth would.
Talking with your dentist is the best way to find a tooth replacement plan for your needs. Dental implants are a big commitment, so do not be afraid to ask questions and express your concerns. At Cavanaugh Dental, we take pride in educating our patients on various replacement options, like dental implants, and walking them through each step of the journey.