For years, physicians have used various types of implants to replace missing parts such as hip and shoulder joints. Today, dentists can replace missing teeth in much the same way. A dental implant is simply a metal or ceramic device that replaces the root of the natural tooth. After an implant is placed into underlying bone, artificial teeth are attached to it, enabling normal function.
Whether an implant is right for you depends on where the implant will be placed, the kind and amount of bone available in the jaw, and the design of tooth or teeth that will be placed on the implant. Implants are not the right restorative choice for every patient. First, you must have enough healthy jawbone to support an implant, or you may require a bone graft. Patients with medical conditions such as diabetes and cancer, or with conditions affecting their ability to use hands and arms, are usually not good implant candidates. Likewise, it is not suitable for smokers, and patients who are not committed to thorough home care.
Implants are not a quick fix. Treatment requires several months. First your mouth will be examined thoroughly, and x-rays of your head, jaw and teeth will be taken. Impressions or molds of your teeth and jaws will also be made so that the dentist can determine exactly where the implant should be placed. You may be required to undergo blood tests as well as a physical examination, to determine your overall health status.
The surgical phase of implant treatments is typically performed in two stages, although it can be done in one stage. The surgery can be performed under local anesthesia in the dentist’s office or under intravenous anesthesia. Within a few days, the gums should return to normal, and you will be able to resume most of your routine activities.
The surgical placement time per implant is approximately one hour depending on the complexity of the procedure. Healing is approximately three months in the lower jaw and six months in the upper jaw while the implant permanently attaches to the bone. After integration, implants can be restored with a crown or bridge.
Poor oral hygiene is a big reason why some implants fail. It is important to floss and brush around the fixtures at least twice a day, without metal objects. Your dentist will give you specific instructions on how to care for your new implants. Additional cleanings of up to four times per year may be necessary to ensure that you retain healthy gums. You will need an examination by a restorative dentist at least once a year.
Implant therapy has been tremendously beneficial to patients who have been unable to wear, or do not want to wear, removable or fixed bridges. Once successfully integrated into the bone, the implant can last indefinitely, barring infection. The life expectancy of the restoration will be the same as a regular crown or a bridge.