How Dental Implants Work
If you’re missing one or more of your teeth and would prefer not to have a bridge or full or partial dentures, you might consider asking your dentist whether you’d be a good candidate for dental implants.
Dental implants provide a more natural tooth replacement than dentures because they’re artificial teeth that are attached directly to the jawbone. To benefit from dental implants, you must be in good health (aside from missing teeth) and have a fully developed and healthy jawbone - healthy gums and a healthy jawbone are needed to support the implants.
What Do Dental Implants Look Like?
Dental implants are more like natural teeth than dentures. A dental implant looks like a cylinder or screw and it serves as an artificial replacement for the root of a missing tooth. Implants are made of titanium or other material that won’t cause an adverse reaction when they are attached to the jawbone and gum tissue.
Dental Implants Procedure
If you’re healthy and your dentist determines that you’re a good candidate for implants, he or she will schedule the procedure to take place either at the dentist’s office under local anesthesia or at a hospital under general anesthesia, depending on the patient’s particular dental health needs and the amount of surgery that is required.
The process of getting a dental implant takes several months to complete, and it involves these three phases:
Placing the implant. First, you undergo surgery to have the implant placed in your jaw, where it is covered over with gum tissue and allowed to integrate into the jawbone for three to six months.
Attaching the post. Your dentist attaches a post to the implant and the gum tissue is allowed to grow up around it. In some cases, the implant and post are placed simultaneously. Whether or not they are placed at the same time, the combination implant and post serves as an anchor for the replacement tooth.
Crown attachment. Your dentist attaches a customized crown to the implant post.
How Long Does a Dental Implant Procedure Take?
Keep in mind that the surgery to place dental implants takes several hours, and more than one procedure may be needed. So anyone who is at increased risk for infection may not want to choose dental implants.
If you’re healthy and you undergo surgery for dental implants, be sure to follow your dentist’s instructions for oral hygiene - including twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing -following the procedure to keep your new teeth clean and healthy.
Dental Implants vs. Dentures
The advantages to dental implants vs. dentures include a more natural ability to eat and speak, and there is no need to remove dentures or worry about denture repair. But it is important to see a dentist regularly to be sure your implants are in good condition and to follow a consistent oral care routine of twice-daily tooth brushing and daily flossing.
Should I Get Dental Implants?
But implants aren’t a good choice for everyone. Pregnant women and people with chronic illness or immunosuppression (due to the increased risk of infection during surgery), children (because their jawbones are still developing) and people who grind or clench their teeth (this habit can put too much pressure on implants) are not good candidates for dental implants.