Dental implants are the closest thing you can get to natural teeth. These artificial tooth roots allow you to confidently eat, smile, laugh, talk, and kiss without worrying about your damaged or missing teeth. Dental implants are a welcome alternative to dentures that can slip and bridges, which can sometimes fit poorly or look unnatural.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants consist of three main parts: implant, abutment, and crown. The implant is a titanium post, similar in shape to a screw, which the dentist surgically implants into the jawbone. In time, the implant fuses with the jawbone in a process known as osseointegration. Implants become a sturdy base to support one or more artificial teeth, known as crowns.
The implant sits below the gum line, while the crown sits above the gum line and is the visible part of the replacement tooth. The crown looks and functions like a natural tooth. Your dentist will custom-make a crown to match your natural teeth and fit comfortably in your mouth. The abutment sits on top of the implant and connects the implant securely to the crown.
Your dentist may recommend dental implants if you:
- Have one or more missing teeth
- Have a jawbone that has finished growing
- Have healthy oral tissues
- Have adequate bone to support the implants
- Do not have any health conditions that affect bone healing
- Do not smoke tobacco
- Are unable to wear dentures, or do not want to wear dentures
- Want to improve your speech
- Are willing to commit to the implant process, which can take several months
About the Dental Implant Procedure
When performed by an experienced dental implant dentist, dental implants are safe and produce predictable results. About 3 million people in the U.S. already have dental implants, according to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, and another half-million Americans get dental implants each year.
The entire dental implant procedure can take months to complete, with much of the time devoted to healing and waiting for osseointegration to complete. In some cases, a dentist may be able to combine steps.
The dental implant procedure begins with a thorough dental examination, review of your dental health history, and discussion about your expectations. The condition of your jawbone determines how you proceed.
The first step is to implant the titanium post into the jaw. The oral surgeon creates a hole in the gum and exposes the bone. Next, the dentist drills a hole where the dental implant post will be. Since it serves as the anchor for the tooth replacement, it will sit deep in the bone. The dentist may place a removable temporary crown on the post.
Osseointegration will take place next, and can last for several months. After osseointegration is complete, the oral surgeon may need to place an abutment on the metal post. The abutment juts above the gum line and serves to connect the dental implant to the replacement tooth. It takes about two weeks for the gums to heal from the placement of the abutment.
Once your gums heal, your dentist will make impressions of your mouth and remaining teeth, and send these impressions to the laboratory that makes your artificial crowns. These replacement crowns can be permanent or removable, depending on your needs.
Schedule Your Consultation for Dental Implants
Dental implants may be one of the best things you can do to improve your smile permanently. You can help keep your dental implants looking and functioning well by practicing excellent oral hygiene, seeing your dentist regularly, and avoiding damaging habits, such as chewing hard candy and using tobacco.
For more information about dental implants, contact Innovative Family Dental.