If you have a missing tooth or will need a tooth extracted, you could be a candidate for a dental implant!
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a small titanium screw that is placed into the jaw bone to replace the ROOT of a missing tooth. (You will still need a crown, or the part that looks like a tooth, attached to the implant once the implant is healed… more on that later!)
What’s the advantage of an implant over other options?
Using an implant to restore a missing tooth involves only that site, without needing to involve any of the other teeth. If a bridge was used to fill the space, the teeth on either side would need to be prepared and restorations placed on them to support the missing tooth in the middle. Another alternative is wearing a removable partial denture, but it requires the denture being taken in and out each day which is a deterrent to many patients. Plus, implants can’t get cavities like natural teeth!
Ok, so how does it work?
In order to place the implant, there must be sufficient available bone at the desired site. We determine this by conducting a thorough exam and a combination of 2-D and/or 3-D x-rays. The best position for the implant is determined ahead of time based on this information. The actual placement of the implant is a minor surgery that is typically completed under local anesthesia.
How long does the whole process take?
The surgery usually takes less than an hour. The implant is left to heal for about 2-4 months. Occasionally, a very small procedure is needed to expose the implant after the healing process. Then the process of fabricating the crown can start, which takes about 2-3 visits.
Will it hurt?
It is surgery, so some mild discomfort can be expected. However, most patients just take the same over-the-counter pain meds (like Advil or Tylenol) that they would take for a headache and are able to go back to work the next day.
Can’t I just leave the space where the tooth was?
You could, but there are a few down sides. The teeth surrounding the space can start to shift in and the opposing tooth can migrate into the space. Also, the bone in the area of the missing tooth can begin to shrink away which makes placing an implant at a later date more difficult. Plus, some patients report a reduced ability to chew with a missing tooth (especially a molar!) and a missing tooth in the front of the mouth obviously has its cosmetic implications.
What if I’m missing multiple teeth?
Implants can replace multiple teeth too! Whether you’re missing a few teeth or a whole arch of teeth, implants can be a great option. There are a lot of different ways to restore the implants, so we always try to find a way to fulfill our patients’ needs.
Are there any contraindications?
There are some. Though implants are highly successful (upwards of 95%), there are a few conditions which increase the risk for failure, such as smoking or diabetes. Additionally, the patient must be healthy enough to undergo a minor surgery. And, as mentioned before, if there is not enough bone or if there are any anatomical structures that interfere with the implant site, additional procedures such as a bone graft may be required.
If you’re interested in possibly having an implant placed or have any questions, please let us know!