If one or more of your teeth are missing, there are a number of ways to replace them. An alternative to bridges, partials or complete dentures may be dental implants.
What is an implant?
Implants are made of titanium and are used to replace the roots of missing teeth. It is the ideal solution for a missing tooth or edentulous patients. They offer better aesthetic and functional results, and prevent greater losses of bone structure.
Who can have an implant?
If you are healthy, you have good gums and enough bone to hold an implant, you are a good candidate. If the quantity of bone has decreased or has not developed normally, a bone graft will be necessary to rebuild your bone before making an implant.
Some conditions and diseases can affect whether dental implants are right for you. For example, uncontrolled diabetes, cancer, radiation to the jaws, smoking, alcoholism, or uncontrolled periodontal (gum) disease may affect whether dental implants will fuse to your bone. It is important to let your dental surgeon know all about your medical status (past and present) together with all medications you are taking, whether prescribed, alternative (herbal) or over-the-counter.
You must also advise the dentist when you are smoking. It is highly recommended to quit smoking two weeks before and at least 1 month after surgery.
How dental implants are done
Your specialist will carefully examine your mouth and take x-rays of your head, jaw and teeth to find out if dental implants are right for you. A scan may likely be recommended and will allow to virtually plan the surgery and to minimize the length of your surgery.
During the first stage of surgery, your specialist will put a dentale implant into your jawbone beneath the gum tissus under local anesthesia. The gum tissue is then stitched back into place. As the tissue heals, the implant will bond with the bone and attach to the gum. It can take several months to heal. Depending on the clinical situation, the surgeon may opt to cover the implant with the gum or leave it uncovered.
If the implant was covered, once the tissus is healed, your specialist uncover the implant and attach an abutment to the implant. An abutment is a post that connects the replacement tooth to the implant. In some cases, the first and second stage of implant surgery may be done in one single stage.
An artificial replacement tooth is made and your specialist attaches it to the abutment. It may take several appointments to properly fit the replacement tooth to the abutment.
When replacing several teeth or all of your teeth, a fixed bridge is anchored to your dental implants. A bridge is a dental restoration that replaces one or more missing teeth by spanning an area that has no teeth. The bridge is held firmly in place by dental implants on each side of the missing tooth or teeth.
Advantages of dental implants:
Permanently replace missing teeth without damaging adjacent teeth
Rediscover the look and feel of natural teeth
Speak and eat with added self-assurance and comfort
Optimise chewing and digestion
Stimulate bone health and reduce resorption
Prevent bone loss following tooth extraction
Re-establish fixed teeth, in the case of moveable dentures.
What else should I know?
1. Several visits to your dentist or dental specialist may be needed until the process is done.
2. Checkups will be scheduled during the following year so your dentist can be sure your implants are working properly.
3. You will need to take very good care of your implants and teeth to avoid future complications.
4. Implants can cost more than other kinds of replacement teeth and might not be covered by your dental plan.
5. Post-operative complications may include bleeding, swelling, infections and brushing.
6. Although rare, possible complications may include numbness, injury to nearby muscles or the sinus cavity and in some cases, the implant may not be successful because it didn't bond to the bone.