What are Dental Implants? Jan 04 2021

If you have seen a picture of a dental implant before, you may not be aware of how mechanical they really are.  But if you are like many people who suffer from catastrophic tooth loss, dental implants may be your best option.  The fact is, dental implants are rapidly replacing removable dentures as the treatment of choice for missing teeth.  That is because they have the appearance and stability of the real thing.

The case for getting an implant can be made on the basis that without a replacement of the tooth and root structure, the underlying bone will deteriorate, causing weakness and possible further loss of surrounding teeth.  Since most people want to give their teeth the best chance to succeed later in life, they are more willing to undergo this seemingly drastic procedure.

What exactly is involved?  First of all, when a tooth is determined to be beyond saving, either by filling it or performing a root canal with its accompanying crown, the options at that point are to have the tooth pulled without replacing it, to pull it and creating a permanent bridge by crowning the teeth on either side, or by placing an implant.

Once the patient has decided on an implant, a mold is taken of the upper and lower jaw, as well as x-rays of the supporting bone structure.  Once a study has been done to ascertain how much bone is available as well as determining the proximity of the sinuses (cavities in the bone), the patient is prepared for the in-office part of the procedure.  Light sedation is usually recommended so that the patient can remain responsive for the duration.  The tooth and its root are extracted.  The bone is then augmented with bone graft material if needed.  Sometimes a healing period is necessary before the implant post can be inserted.  If not, the post will be implanted and sutures will close the area.

Aftercare includes antibiotics and pain medication such as ibuprofen and oxycodone.  An antiseptic mouthwash may also be provided to be used twice daily as a rinse.  This is followed by four to six months to allow the bone to heal and attach to the post, which is usually made of titanium due to its strength and biocompatibility (meaning its unlikelihood to be rejected by the body).  After the healing process is complete, an abutment is placed on the post above the gumline.   After your gums heal, in about two weeks, a porcelain crown is fitted to the post completing the prosthetic.

While all of this seems traumatic and time-consuming, if successful, the results are more desirable in the long-term.¬† The post, acting as the root of your new tooth, will actually fuse with the bone and create the strongest base possible.¬† You can expect to enjoy your implant for many years.¬† Of course, you can help your dental work ‚ÄĒ and remaining natural teeth ‚ÄĒ last longer if you*:

  • Practice excellent oral hygiene.¬†Just as with your natural teeth, keep implants, artificial teeth and gum tissue clean. Specially designed brushes, such as an interdental brush that slides between teeth, can help clean the nooks and crannies around teeth, gums and metal posts.
  • See your dentist regularly.¬†Schedule regular dental checkups to ensure the health and proper functioning of your implants.
  • Avoid damaging habits.¬†Don't chew hard items, such as ice and hard candy, which can break your crowns ‚ÄĒ or your natural teeth. Avoid tooth-staining tobacco and caffeine products. Get treatment if you grind your teeth.

*Tips provided by the Mayo Clinic.

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