How Dental Implants Can Replace Missing Teeth

Find out more about this procedure, the different kinds of artificial teeth that you can choose from and also the benefits as well as the risks of this procedure.

When you smile and you see that you have gaps where your teeth were before, there is a big chance you are missing something more than your teeth. First of all, you might be missing proper nutrition. Second, you may have also noticed that invitations to social engagements are quite few.

But it should not always be like that.  You can fill in the gaps by getting artificial teeth through dental implants.  A lot of people consider dental implants because of the security they provide. Aside from this, they are very comfortable and efficient compared to dentures or to bridgework.  Know more about the dental implant procedure:

What are dental implants?
Dental implants actually are metal cylinders, which are threaded and act as roots of the missing teeth.  These are not artificial replacement teeth.  An implant, which is also called cylinder or post, would be surgically implanted under your gum tissue, fusing with the jawbone.  Then an extension or abutment will be attached above the cylinder.  An artificial tooth or crown will be connected to that extension, finally creating a three-piece instrument.  You can have a dental implant procedure for just one missing tooth or more.

Many healthy adults who have missing teeth can get dental implants.  Consult with a dentist, periodontist or a maxillofacial and oral surgeon if this surgery is a good treatment option.

Best Candidates for Dental Implants
Ideal candidates for dental implants are those who have at least one missing teeth, a fully-grown jawbone and healthy oral tissues. You must also have enough bone to be able to secure implants or if not, can qualify for a bone grafting process. It is ideal that there are no adverse health conditions, which might impair healing of the bone.  This is also ideal for those who wish to improve their speech and can commit to a couple or more months of dental implant procedures. Another factor in finding out if the option for dental implants is a  wise decision is financial situation.  This surgery may be quite expensive and is not typically covered by most health insurance.  The costs differ so look around first and compare prices before committing.

Preparation for Dental Implant Surgery
First, you would need a comprehensive evaluation right before the surgery since dental implants might need more than one procedure. 

You should get a thorough dental exam before surgery.  This might include making a model of the mouth or taking dental x-rays.  Discuss with your doctor your medical conditions and also other medications you are currently taking, which include prescriptions and other supplements. In case you have either a heart condition, orthopedic or vascular implants, the doctor might give you an antibiotic prescription prior to surgery to prevent any infection.

You would get a specific treatment plan depending on your condition.  This plan considers factors like number of teeth that will be replaced and your jawbone condition.  A number of dental specialists may be involved in creating a treatment plan:  

Maxillofacial and oral surgeon - this is a doctor whose specialty is diagnosing and treating injuries, illnesses and problems in the face, mouth and jaw.

Periodontist – this is a dentist whose specialty is diagnosing and treating structures which support your teeth.

Prosthodontist – this is a dentist whose specialty is making and also fitting the artificial replacements needed for defective or missing teeth.

Description of Dental Implant Surgery
The placement of artificial teeth and dental implants involves several stages of surgical procedures.  The whole process usually takes about three up to nine months and maybe even longer.  It seems like such a long time but most of it is used on waiting for the new bone in the jaw to grow and for healing too. 

Expectations During Dental Implant Surgery
How the surgery will be performed would depend on the kind of implant that will be used and also your jawbone's condition.  First, the cylinder of the dental implant would be implanted into your jawbone.  Then you have to go through the healing process for a few months.  Then an abutment or extension will be placed, which involves a shorter healing period.  Then finally, you will receive your new piece of artificial tooth, which is sometimes called a crown or implant prosthesis.

It is also possible that you might need bone grafting prior to the first dental implant procedure and this may lengthen the entire process.

Candidates for Bone Grafting
Before dental implant surgery, you might need bone grafting when your jawbone is very soft or is not thick enough.  The reason for this is that the strong chewing motion of the mouth puts increased pressure on the bone, so if it could not support the dental implant, then the surgery may not be successful.  The bone graft will make a more solid foundation for your implant.

Bone grafting involves taking a piece of the bone from another area of the body and then transplanting it to the jawbone.  It might take about six up to nine months for you to grow sufficient new bone that would support the dental implant.  Some cases may only require little bone grafting, which could be performed at the exact same time.  The treatment plan depends on the condition of the jawbone.

The Dental Implant Placement
Whether or not you undergo bone graft, a dental implant will be placed surgically in your jawbone.  Generally, this is an outpatient procedure, which can be completed in a hospital or dental office.  An overnight stay in the hospital is not even necessary.

You may need some anesthesia to manage the pain during surgery.  The anesthesia choices include general, local or sedation.  Discuss with your doctor which one is right for you.  You will also receive specific instructions on what to eat and drink before surgery, which would depend on the kind of anesthesia that you will get.  If you will get general anesthesia, ask someone to drive you back home after the surgery and also expect that you would just rest all throughout the day.

Your gum will be cut open during the surgery in order to expose your bone.  Then holes will be drilled where your dental implant cylinder would be placed.  It will be implanted deep into your bone because the cylinder would act as a tooth root.  Then your gums will be stitched closed above the cylinder once the implant is secured in place.  The cylinder is located below the gum surface so it would not be visible whenever your mouth opens.

You would have a tooth gap at this stage and you can opt for a partial and temporary denture to make it look more pleasant looking.  You could remove this denture anytime to clean it and before going to bed.

Waiting for the New Bone Growth
Osseointegration will begin as soon as the metal cylinder is implanted into your jawbone.  In this process, your jawbone grows and also unites with the dental implant's surface.  Generally, this process would take about three up to six months.  It is a significant step since it aids in providing a really solid foundation for the artificial tooth, similar to what the roots do to natural teeth.

Putting the Abutment in Place
Upon completion of osseointegration, an additional surgery is needed in order to put the abutment where the crown would be eventually attached.  You gum will be reopened so the dental implant would be exposed and the abutment placed.  It will be attached to your dental implant.  Usually, this surgery is performed on an outpatient basis and under local anesthesia.  When your abutment is already in place, your gum tissue will be closed around the abutment and not over it.

There are some rare cases wherein the abutment can be placed on the cylinder of the dental implant simultaneously while the cylinder will be implanted.  This means that there is one less surgical step.  But since the abutment protrudes beyond your gum line, then this will be visible whenever your mouth opens. It might even stay this way for at least six months.  Other people do not want this and wish to get another procedure for the attachement of the abutment.

Selecting New Artificial Teeth
Once abutment is correctly-placed, you should let your gums heal for about one or even two weeks prior to the attachment of your artificial tooth.  When the gums have already healed, you must have additional impressions created of your remaining teeth and mouth.  These will be used in creating the crown, which is the artificial but real-looking tooth or also called the prosthesis.  The crown will only be placed once your jawbone is strong enough that it can support use of your new tooth.

Select from two major kinds of artificial tooth:

(1) Removable tooth implant prosthesis - It is just like a regular removable denture that has white artificial teeth, which is surrounded by a plastic pink gum.  This is placed on a piece of metal frame, which is securely-attached to the abutment and also snaps into place.  This can be removed easily for repair and daily cleaning.  This is a good option when some teeth in your lower jaw is replaced because it is more affordable compared to multiple implants and is also more secure compared to traditional dentures.

(2) Fixed tooth implant prosthesis - The artificial tooth will be screwed permanently or cemented into the individual dental implant abutment.  But you would not be able to remove this tooth for everyday cleaning or when sleeping.  If you are not concerned with finances, you can choose this in replacing your missing teeth.  With this, each crown will be connected to its dental implant.

Complications with Dental Implant Surgery
Some complications associated to dental implant surgery are minor bleeding, pain, swelling of face and gums and bruising of gums and skin.  In rare cases, there might be stiffness in the jaw or even inability to completely open the mouth.  These usually occur because of the passing of surgical needle on your jaw muscles.

Contact your doctor if the discomfort, swelling or other problem worsens.  You might need some antobiotics or pain medications for it.

In every step of surgery, you should eat only soft foods in the next five up to seven days.  The stitches would normally dissolve on its own.  But if you do not have self-dissolving stitches, your doctor will remove them after 10 days.

Dental Implant After-Care
Most of dental implant surgeries are successful but you can make you dental work last longer when you practice really good oral hygiene.  Just like with your natural and original teeth, you should also clean your artificial teeth, implants and your gum tissue.  Use special toothbrushes, like the interdental brush, which slides easily between the teeth and cleans the nooks around it, as well as the metal abutments and gums.

Regularly visit your dentist and schedule dental check-ups at least once a year to maintain oral health and correct functioning of the implants.  You should also avoid any damaging habits like chewing hard items that could break the crown or even your original teeth.  Also try to avoid products that could stain your teeth like tobacco and also caffeine products.  Do get treatment if you happen to grind your teeth.

What if dental surgery does not work?
There might be some cases wherein the dental implants do not work.  This can happen if the bone does not fuse completely enough to the implant cylinder.  When this happens, the implant will be removed and the bone will be cleaned up.  You can opt to try this procedure again after about one month or maybe two.

Another reason is that the implant might become loose.  When this occurs, the implant would be taken out a will be replaced with another one.

Risks of Dental Implant Surgery
As with any other surgery, this pose some risks, which include nerve damage, infection, sinus problems and damage or injury to the surrounding structures.