What You Need to Know About Dental Implants

Do you have damaged or missing teeth?
Do you avoid smiling?
Do you feel self-conscious about how you look?

If this sounds like you, dental implants could be the answer to restoring your beautiful smile.

A dental implant is an artificial tooth which is surgically implanted into the jaw. For the right candidate, dental implants can improve both your appearance and your self-confidence when performed by a qualified dentist. In fact, dental implants look and function so much like natural teeth that it’s almost impossible to tell they are artificial.

Dental implant surgery could be the right choice for you if you:

  • Have damaged or missing teeth due to dental disease or trauma
  • Have a mature jaw bone
  • Have a jaw bone which will accommodate implants or can be successfully grafted to accommodate implants
  • Are in good oral health
  • Do not have other health issues (such as diabetes) which will affect healing
  • Are willing to commit the time necessary (up to a few months) to complete the process
  • Cannot tolerate or want to avoid dentures

There are two parts to a dental implant: a titanium cylinder which goes into the jawbone and acts like the root of the tooth; and an abutment which screws into the metal cylinder and holds a crown. The implant fuses with your jawbone over time to ensure the implant is stable. Together, the implant and the crown resemble a natural tooth.

What Should I Expect?

  • Under local anesthesia, the dentist will anchor the metal cylinder into the jawbone. The cylinder will then be covered by the gum until it fuses securely with the bone.
  • Once stable, the dentist will uncover the cylinder and screw in the abutment.
  • In some cases, the cylinder and the screw are a single unit placed into the jaw during the first procedure.
  • The crown is then attached to the dental implant.
  • A bone graft may be required before the implant procedure can be performed.

Why Would I Need a Bone Graft?

If you require a dental implant, there is a chance you may also need a bone graft in order for your surgery to be successful. A bone graft may be indicated in cases where the jawbone is either too thin or too soft to provide the support the dental implant needs to stay firmly in place. Bone grafts are used to strengthen the jaw bone so the implant can be successfully stabilized. Your dentist will determine if this step in necessary during your consultation.

If it is determined a bone graft will be required, the graft can be taken from multiple sources:

  • Autografts are taken from another part of your body such as the chin, pelvis, lower leg or ribs. This bone contains live cells which may make the grafting procedure more successful. However, there is also a higher risk for post-op complications and longer recovery due to a second surgical site.
  • Allografts are tissue taken from one person and transplanted to someone else. Donations may come from patients who have had bone removed during a surgery or from cadavers. Using donor bone means patients can avoid the extraction of bone and thus a second surgical site. There is, however, a small risk of transmission of disease using this process.

How Long Does the Implantation Process Take?

When undergoing dental implants, each case is unique. The timeline and the number of procedures required can vary quite a bit depending on the type of implant, whether you need a bone graft and how quickly you heal. If your bone requires grafting, it may take up to several months for the bone to be strong enough to handle a dental implant. Overall, the whole process can take up to 9 months.

What Are the Side Effects?

Side effects of the procedure(s) include mild bruising and swelling of the face and gums, pain at the site of the implant and minor bleeding.

What Are the Risks?

As with any dental procedure, there are potential risks to undergoing dental implantation such as infection, injury or damage to other structures in the mouth (including teeth, blood vessels and nerves) and sinus problems. It is important to note that although these risks exist, they are rare and often easily managed.

How Do I Care for My Implant?

To prevent failure or loosening, excellent oral hygiene is essential. Brushing and flossing around the implants should be done at least twice a day. Your dentist may also recommend additional cleanings throughout the year to prevent gum disease.

If you think you might be a good candidate for a dental implant, make an appointment to talk to your dentist today. It’s never too late to restore your confident smile!

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