If you have lost – or are in the process of losing – one or more teeth, dental implants can provide a stable and secure method of replacing them. They are a more permanent alternative to dental bridges or partial dentures, and provide some advantages to these methods. According to the American Academy of Implant Prosthodontics, implants can help to:
- Approximate the “feel” of natural teeth better than dentures or bridges
- Facilitate proper chewing and speech and improve “dental self confidence”
- Provide stability for and reduce movement of other removable dentures or fixed bridges
In the first step of the implant procedure your dentist, after assessing your overall health and the state of both your gums and the bone that underlies the jaw, surgically implants a small metal post (usually made of titanium) into the bone underlying the missing tooth. Over time (2 to 6 months), the post bonds with the bone surrounding it, and becomes stable enough to support the replacement tooth or teeth. During this period of healing, a temporary replacement tooth or bridge can be used to cover the still-healing gap and present the image of a full smile. Once the healing process has finished and a permanent crown has been attached to it, the implanted teeth have the full appearance and function of normal, healthy teeth.
What can you expect if you are a candidate for dental implants?
Implants can be a tremendous solution for missing teeth, but they are not for everyone. They must be preceded by a full examination by one of our qualified dentists. You should be in good health, and the dentist must perform tests to determine whether your gums and the bones of your jaw are healthy enough to support the procedure. In terms of lifestyle, you should also be committed post-procedure to meticulous oral hygiene, regular dental visits, and to the avoidance of behaviors such as heavy smoking and drinking, which can affect the success of the procedure.
If you are a candidate for dental implants, the implantation of the rod itself is a surgical process, so it is performed under either local or full anesthesia. There is rarely any follow-up pain, but there is a healing period that must be observed before the process can be completed by attaching replacement crowns to the properly-healed post.
After that, one factor to remember is that your dental implants may look and feel much like natural teeth, but are generally not as strong. As a result, you may need to brush and floss more gently and carefully than before, making sure to clean all sides of the replacement teeth.