What You Need to Know about Dental Implants
Here in our Naperville office, we sometimes recommend dental implants as the treatment of choice for a particular condition, and we’ve found that a fair number of our patients don’t have a clear understanding of what they are or what’s involved in getting them. That lack of understanding can produce unnecessary wariness and anxiety, so here’s some fundamental information about dental implants.
What Are Dental Implants and When Are They Indicated?
Also know as a tooth implant, a dental implant is an artificial replacement for a missing tooth. Perhaps the tooth is already missing when the patient goes in for his initial consultation, or perhaps a dental examination reveals that the tooth is so damaged it can’t be salvaged. Thus the sensible course of action is to extract it and put a tooth implant in its place.
The Process of Getting Dental Implants
You can expect the process of getting dental implants to unfold through four steps.
Dental Implants Step #1: The Initial Consultation
Before the dentist starts the process of placing an implant, you’ll have a consultation where you’ll discuss the advisability of an implant and evaluate dental implant cost and financing options.
Dental Implants Step #2: Placing the Implant
Once the patient has decided on an implant, the next step is to place it, a titanium post, in the proper position in the upper or lower jaw. The dentist needs to do some drilling to accomplish this since it’s necessary for the post to fit securely in the bone. That tight fit enables it to serve as a proper root for the artificial tooth to come.
The dentist will of course use anesthetic to prevent you from experiencing any discomfort while this process is underway.
The really tricky part of the placing the implant is putting it in without compromising any of the nerves in the mouth. There are a lot of these, and it takes an expert to properly position the post without damaging any of them although modern state-of-the-art 3D imaging technology helps considerably.
When the implant is in. the dentist puts a healing cap over it to protect it while your mouth is healing
Dental Implants Step #2; Bone Grafting
Placing a tooth implant become somewhat more involved if bone grafting is necessary before or during the procedure. Essentially, a bone graft serves to strengthen bone too weak or soft to support a tooth implant in its current condition.
If you need a bone graft, it won’t come as a surprise. The dentist will discuss this part of the process with you during the initial consultation.
Dental Implants Step #3: Healing and Fusing with the Bone
After the post is in, the patient’s mouth needs to heal, and bone needs to grow around it. This can take several months, but your patience will be rewarded when the tooth implant fuses with the bone via a process technically known as osteointegration. This bonding makes dental implants very secure and is one reason they’re the treatment of choice for so many patients with missing teeth.
While the healing is underway, you’ll have both the healing cap to protect the spot where the surgery took place and a temporary dental crown. The crown will spare you the potential embarrassment of looking like you’re missing a tooth.
Dental Implants Step #4: Attaching the Permanent Crown
When the implant is completely healed, the dentist manufactures a permanent custom crown that will look and function just like a natural tooth and affixes it to the post.
Dental Implants: When More Than One Tooth Is Missing
Until now, we’ve been discussing the single tooth implant. But what if you have several missing teeth in a row, perhaps even all of them along the upper or lower jaw or both?
If that’s the case, you’ll probably be relieved to hear that each one of the replacement teeth won’t need its own individual implant. Modern dentists work with All on 4 (or All on 6 if indicated) technology. This means that only four or six posts need to be placed to support a permanent overdenture that most patients find to be far superior to old-fashioned traditional dentures. An overdenture won’t slip around in your mouth and make it difficult to speak or eat, and you won’t need to take it out at night.
If you’d like to know more about dental implants, please contact us at our Naperville office for a consultation.