Dental implants are a permanent solution for replacing missing teeth. Although it may seem scary aft first, implants can be a great way to restore your smile. In this article, we’ll discuss the different types of implants, implant materials, types of implants, steps in the procedures, risks and complications, cost and more.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are a dental procedure that involves placing a metal prosthesis inside the jaw bone in the space where a tooth used to be. There are various reasons why a tooth may have been removed from the mouth, including decay, injury or gum disease. Dental implants typically consist of a titanium or zirconia fixture surgically implanted into the jawbone. Although dental implants are typically followed by a crown, the implant itself is only the artificial “root” of the new tooth. After an implant has been placed in the jawbone, various steps must be taken afterwards:
- Step 1, Implant Placement: The first step in the implant process is to place the fixture into the jawbone surgically.
- Step 2, Abutment Placement: The abutment is a connector that attaches the implant to the crown or bridge. This must be placed after the implant is secure.
- Step 3, Crown/Bridge/Denture Placement: The crown is the visible portion of the tooth that will be visible above the gum line. It may be made of porcelain, ceramic or metal, depending on the patient’s needs and preferences.
The most frequently used materials for dental implants are titanium and zirconia implants. Titanium implants have been around for over 40 years and are the most commonly used due to their strength and durability. Zirconia implants, a newer type of implant material, are made from ceramic material. Although they are less durable and more prone to fractures, they may be a better option for people who prefer to avoid the use of metals in their bodies.
Types of Implants
There are three primary types of implants that differ in the way they are placed into your jaw: Endosteal, Zygomatic, and Subperiosteal. Each has its own use case, which must be considered when deciding which implant is right for you.
Endosteal implants are the most common type of dental implant that involves placing a screw into the jawbone. They are suitable for most individuals seeking dental implants.
Zygomatic implants are much longer than endosteal implants, placing them in the zygomatic bone rather than the jawbone. The Zygomatic bone (located in the upper jaw) is a larger, sturdier bone than the jawbone, and as such, Zygomatic implants can be used for those who require more support with their implants. That typically means that they are intended for people that have experienced bone loss in the upper jaw. Bone loss can occur due to trauma, medical conditions, or long-term lack of teeth.
Subperiosteal implants are inserted above the jawbone, directly on the gum line. This method might be recommended for people who cannot undergo an invasive bone graft procedure. However, these types of implants have largely fallen out of use compared to the other varieties of implants available today.
The procedure for dental implants involves several steps, which we will divide into before, during, and after treatment:
Before proceeding with a dental implant surgery, your dentist will need to conduct several key steps to ensure the success of the procedure.
- Review Medical History: First and foremost, a dentist must review your medical history is essential to ensure you are able to have an implant. There are various factors, such as metal allergies or bleeding disorders, that may require additional preparation or deem you unsuitable for the procedure altogether.
- Determine if Bone Grafts are Required: Bone grafts are used to increase the volume of available bone in order to secure a dental implant. A bone graft may be necessary if your jawbone has deteriorated due to age or loss of teeth. If the implant is attempted without sufficient bone in your jaw, it increases the chance that it will fail and fall out.
- Determining Implant Size: Typically, a dentist will want to choose an implant that maximizes the amount of surface area with your existing bone. This will allow the implant to have the most stability in the mouth. This will vary depending on jaw shape and size.
During Treatment (First Visit)
- Anesthesia is Administered: To ensure comfort and reduce any pain or discomfort, anesthesia will be administered before the procedure. Some patients may opt to have general anesthesia while undergoing this procedure; however, local anesthesia is usually all that is needed.
- Incision and Raising of Gum Flaps: This will reveal the bone that your dentist will place the implant into.
- Placement of Implant: The implant is placed into the jawbone at the determined location. A dentist will start with a small pilot hole, followed by subsequently larger and larger holes to ensure that the bone creates a snug fit with the implant. Afterwards, a cover screw can be temporarily placed over your implant. Careful precision is taken during this step to ensure a successful placement.
- Closing Surgical Sight: After the implant has been placed, the dentist will cover the sight and stitch it back closed.
Recovery and Aftercare
After the procedure has been completed, you can expect some amount of swelling or bleeding to occur as your body heals. A few steps must be taken for proper recovery and aftercare. These should be done while you wait for the bone to grow around the implant and lock it into the jaw, which should take 3-5 months.
- Continue to brush and floss twice a day to make sure your oral health remains healthy
- Rinse with water after each meal so that food doesn’t get stuck in the stitches or around the implant
- Avoid brushing vigorously near the surgical area during the first few days after your procedure
- Try not to chew near the implant during the first few days after your procedure
- Stick to soft foods for the first few days after an implant until the area heals
- Take any antibiotics and pain medication if prescribed. If you are in pain but have not been prescribed pain medication, feel free to use Tylenol and Advil
After Treatment (Second Visit)
After the implant has had time to fuse with the jawbone, the cover screw needs to be replaced with a healing abutment, the final step in your implant procedure. This will allow any further crowns or bridges to be attached to your implant. And that’s it! You’re now ready for a new smile.
Alternatives to Dental Implants
Before considering dental implants, your dentist may recommend other solutions, including bridges or dentures. Although dental implants are usually the best alternative for replacing missing teeth, the expensive cost of dental implants is often a prohibiting factor. In some cases, the following treatment options may also be possible:
- Dentures: A removable prosthetic device that can replace one or more missing teeth.
- Bridges: An artificial tooth anchored to the surrounding teeth that bridges the gap left by one or more missing teeth.
- Partial dentures: A removable prosthetic device that replaces one or more missing teeth in the same arch.
- Temporary dentures: A temporary replacement for missing teeth while waiting for more permanent options.
- Resin-bonded bridges: Also called Maryland bridges, a type of bridge that is bonded to the adjacent teeth using a resin material.
- Flipper: A temporary prosthesis used for a single tooth replacement.
- Orthodontics: The use of braces or aligners to shift teeth into the proper location to fill in gaps created by missing teeth.
- Endodontic treatment: Also known as a root canal, a procedure that extracts infected pulp and replaces it with a filling material.
Risks and Complications
While dental implant surgeries are generally safe (with an over 90% rate of success), as with any medical procedure, there are potential risks and complications. Here are some risks and complications associated with dental implant procedures:
- Infection: Bacteria can cause bone and tissue loss around the implant, leading to implant failure.
- Nerve damage: During the procedure, nerves can be damaged, leading to numbness, tingling, or loss of sensation in the mouth, tongue or lips.
- Sinus problems: Dental implants placed in the upper jaw can protrude into the sinus cavities, leading to infections and sinus problems.
- Implant failure: In some cases, the implant may fail to fuse with the bone or become loose, leading to its removal.
- Peri-implantitis: This condition results from inflammation of the surrounding gum tissue due to bacterial infection, leading to bone loss around the implant.
- Bleeding: Uncontrollable bleeding may occur in some patients, particularly those with bleeding disorders.
Dental implants are an effective, long-term solution for replacing missing teeth. When properly cared for, they can last a lifetime and provide a realistic alternative to bridges, dentures and other options. However, there are some risks and complications associated with dental implants that should be discussed with your dentist before undergoing the procedure. Ultimately, dental implants may be the best solution for replacing missing teeth with natural-looking results. Talk to your dentist to determine if dental implants are the right choice for you.
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No two mouths are the same, and each oral situation is unique. As such, it isn’t possible to give comprehensive advice or diagnose oral conditions based on articles alone. The best way to ensure you’re getting the best dental care possible is to visit a dentist in person for an examination and consultation.