Dental implants are dental devices that serve to replace missing teeth. They may be necessary if a tooth has fallen out or had to be removed as a result of severe decay or damage.
Dental implants are one of a few treatment options for replacing teeth, but unlike other methods—namely bridges and full or partial dentures—dental implants help prevent bone and further tooth loss, preserve facial appearance, and help preserve healthy adjacent teeth. Implants can last a lifetime and rarely need adjustments.
There are three parts to a dental implant—the tiny titanium posts that are inserted into the jawbone (acting like your root), the abutment (this is for the crown to attach to) and the crown. The posts act much like new tooth roots and provide the necessary support for both the jaw and the new tooth prosthesis.
When a tooth falls out or has to be extracted, the gap that remains poses a risk to the health and strength of your jaws and remaining teeth. Without a tooth there, there is no jaw stimulation to keep the jaw properly shaped and aligned. This can result in teeth that shift, infection in the gum, deterioration of tissue or bone, and even further tooth loss.
Because they are inserted into the jaw and below the gum line, implants act like new teeth roots, stimulating the jaw and providing a secure, permanent foundation for a replacement prosthesis to fill the gap. The replacement tooth or teeth look and function just like natural ones and help the mouth retain its natural shape.
The best type of dental implant for a patient depends primarily on how many teeth are missing and their position in the mouth, but most implants fall under one of three categories:
Single implants replace a single tooth. If you are missing multiple teeth but they are not adjacent to one another, you may have single implants to replace each tooth.
Implant bridges are used when several teeth in a row are missing. Two or more implants are inserted into the jaw, and a bridge—a dental device consisting of several false teeth—is attached to these implants.
Implant dentures are a permanent alternative to conventional dentures. Four or more screws are inserted into the jaw, then a denture—a full arch of artificial replacement teeth—is attached to the screws.
The procedure for dental implants takes place in several phases. During an initial consultation and evaluation, the doctor will take x-rays to determine the strength and structure of your jaw bone and the position of the remaining teeth in your mouth. He or she will ask some questions about your overall health to ensure you are a good candidate for the procedure.
Every treatment is unique to every patient and depends on factors like how many teeth you are having replaced, where they are in your mouth, and the condition of the surrounding tissue, bone, and teeth. If you have been missing teeth for a while, your jaw may not be strong enough or substantial enough to support implants right away and you may need a bone graft first to help build up the jaw. You may also need additional preparatory procedures, such as bone grafts or a sinus lift (for upper implants only) to ensure a better outcome from the implants.
The next stage is implant placement, the first of two surgical procedures, and may be performed under local anesthesia with a sedative or a general IV anesthesia. Incisions will be made in the gums into which the small titanium screws are inserted. The gums will then be sutured closed around the implant and you will need to wait between three and six months while your gums heal and the jaw bone fuses with the implant through a process called osseointegration.
Once the implant has stabilized within the jaw bone, a component called an abutment is attached to the implant. The titanium posts will be uncovered and the abutment—a metal piece to which the false tooth (crown) will be connected—will be placed. The gums are sutured around the abutment, leaving it exposed. A temporary crown may be placed while the gums heal and you wait for the prosthesis.
The final stage is the placement of the the crown (for single implants), bridge when you have several missing teeth), or dentures(implant affixed dentures). Once this has been completed, your smile will look, feel, and function exactly like it should.
Proper care and oral hygiene are crucial immediately following a dental implant procedure to help allow your gums to heal and stave off infection. Rinsing regularly with saltwater or antiseptic solution, using over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatories, and avoiding very chewy or crunchy foods can all help ensure the best healing possible.
Once the gums have healed, dental implants require the same kind of care as natural teeth, including routine brushing and flossing to reduce the risk of gum disease. Regular visits to the dentist are also important for maintaining your overall dental health and allowing your dentist to make sure the bone and gum tissue around the implants are strong and healthy.
Most people who are in generally good health are good candidates for dental implants. Exceptions may include people who have:
If you are a smoker or use other forms of tobacco, you will need to quit before receiving dental implants. Tobacco and nicotine use impedes the healing process, increasing the risk of infection or other complications post-procedure.
The cost of dental implants can vary widely depending on your unique situation.
However, when evaluating the cost of dental implants, it’s important to remember they are an investment in your long-term health. The upfront costs for dental implants may be more than for less permanent solutions like dentures and bridges, but they will prevent you from paying more in prosthesis maintenance, adjustment, and replacement over the years, as well as any restorative procedures you may need if your condition declines.
It’s also worth noting that many dental insurance plans cover part of the cost of dental implants. Even if yours doesn’t, Bright Now! Dental works hard to make them affordable with flexible financing and payment plans and dental discounts.
You deserve a beautiful, healthy smile, and at Bright Now! Dental, we’re committed to helping you achieve it with comprehensive, affordable dental services. Our multiple retail locations boast a full complement of care, including dental implants, and we work hard to make sure that meeting your dental needs is convenient, comfortable, and cost-effective.
Don’t wait another day for the smile of your dreams. Schedule a consultation today at a Bright Now! location near you and find out if dental implants are right for you.