Procedure for Dental Implants
Authored By: Allison DiMatteo
Reviewed By: W. Peter Nordland, DMD
Dental implants are artificial tooth roots used to support a restoration for a missing tooth or teeth, helping to stop or prevent jaw bone loss. The dental implant procedure is categorized as a form of prosthetic (artificial replacement) dentistry, but also is considered a form of cosmetic dentistry.
People who have lost teeth might feel too self-conscious to smile or talk. Additionally, biting irregularities caused by tooth loss can have a negative effect on eating habits, leading to secondary health problems like malnutrition.
By replacing missing tooth roots, dental implants provide people with the strength and stability required to eat all the foods they love, without struggling to chew. Additionally, dental implants stimulate and maintain jaw bone, preventing bone loss and helping to maintain facial features.
Teeth are lost because of:
- Tooth decay
- Root canal failure
- Gum disease (Periodontitis)
- Trauma to the mouth (tooth injury)
- Excessive wear and tear
- Congenital defects
Dental Implants: Consultation, Placement, and Recovery
To determine if implants are right for you, a consultation with your dentist, oral surgeon, and/or periodontist or prosthodontist is needed. During this appointment, your dental professional will thoroughly examine your teeth and gums and evaluate bone density and quantity. This may involve X-rays and computer tomography scans (CT scans) to ensure there is sufficient bone structure for placing the implant(s), and to determine exactly where the implant should be placed.
Based on the condition of your oral tissues, oral hygiene and personal habits, and commitment to follow aftercare instructions, your dentist will advise you of the most appropriate dental implant treatment plan. Some patients with insufficient bone or gum tissue require bone or soft tissue grafts and/or the use of small diameter implants (also called mini implants).
Depending on your situation, your dental professional will advise you of how long the entire treatment process will take, how many appointments will be necessary and what you can expect after each procedure. During the consultation, options for local anesthesia (to numb the affected and surrounding areas) and sedation dentistry, if necessary, also will be discussed.
The Dental Implant Placement Procedure
Today's dental implant restorations are virtually indistinguishable from other teeth. This appearance is aided in part by the structural and functional connection between the dental implant and the living bone. Implants are typically placed in a single sitting but require a period of osseointegration.
Osseointegration is the process by which the dental implant anchors to the jaw bone. Osseointegrated implants are the most commonly used and successful type of dental implant. An osseointegrated implant takes anywhere from three to six months to anchor and heal, at which point your dentist can complete the procedure by placing a crown restoration. If osseointegration does not occur, the implant will fail.
Dental implantation, which is performed to replace missing teeth, can be done any time after adolescence or when bone growth is complete. Certain medical conditions, such as active diabetes, cancer or periodontal disease, may require additional treatment before the implant procedure can be performed.
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