A dental implant is an artificial tooth root replacement that is surgically anchored into your jawbone to hold a replacement tooth or bridge in place. An implant is made of titanium metal that is biocompatible (tolerated by the human body tissue). Dental implants are a good solution to tooth loss because they look and feel like natural teeth. The benefit of using implants is that they don’t rely on neighboring teeth for support and they are permanent and stable.
The process for implants is:
- Surgical placement of the implant
- Healing/waiting period for the implant to fuse with the bone
- Placement of healing cap that shapes the gum for the final restoration and protects the implant
- Creation of the artificial tooth or crown that is attached to the implant post
The entire process can take nine to 12 months; each patient heals differently so times will vary. Patients must be committed to a daily regimen of good oral hygiene and visit the dentist regularly for their preventive visits.
Single or Multiple Implants
Implants are versatile. If you are only missing one tooth, one implant plus one replacement tooth will do the trick. If you are missing several teeth in a row, a few strategically placed implants can support a permanent bridge (a set of replacement teeth). Similarly, if you have lost all of your teeth, a full bridge or full denture can be permanently fixed in your mouth with a strategic number of implants.
Advantages Over Dentures or Bridges
Conventional bridges and dentures are not fixed to the bone, and can therefore be unstable. This can make it difficult to eat or smile with confidence. Implants not only look more natural, but feel and act more like normal teeth, with a stronger biting force. And because they don't directly rely on neighboring teeth for support, implants don't compromise the health of your natural teeth. In fact, bridges are only expected to last seven to ten years, even less with root canals, whereas implants will typically last a lifetime.
Patients must be in good general health and have adequate bone to support the implant or be able to have bone graft surgery to rebuild the area needing implant. Talk to your dentist if dental implants are the right treatment for you.