While regular brushing, flossing and dental checkups allow many of us to maintain our natural smile, sometimes our teeth just can’t keep up. If you’re missing teeth, dental implants are a great way to replace them and provide a fixed solution to removable dentures. With today’s dental implants we are now able to offer natural looking replacement teeth that are fixed in the jaw. Implant treatment provides us with the option to correct the most troublesome cases associated with missing teeth and poorly fitting dentures. If you’re missing one or even all of your teeth, we believe that dental implants can help you rediscover the comfort and confidence to eat, speak, laugh and enjoy life.
What are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root made of titanium that is surgically placed into the jaw bone and used to support tooth replacement structures such as crowns, bridges and dentures. While the implant mimics the root of the tooth, the replacement structure looks and feels just like a natural tooth, providing you with a permanent solution for missing teeth that replicates the fit and feel of natural teeth. Because dental implants are considered to be the most modern and successful restorative treatment option available in dentistry today, they offer many benefits over other tooth replacement methods.
- Enhanced Esthetics: Implants are placed within the gums. The crowns that are attached to them emerge in a manner similar to a natural tooth. This offers a more realistic and natural look compared to other alternatives.
- Reduction of Bone Resorption: When a tooth is lost, the supporting bone structure gradually recedes over time. Dental implants integrate with the jaw bone and stimulate its preservation, allowing the bone to stay healthy and intact while maintaining your natural facial contours and appearance.
- Preservation of Adjacent Teeth: Other methods like fixed bridges must be anchored to adjacent teeth, unnecessarily sacrificing the quality and health of the surrounding teeth. Dental implants are independent and don’t rely on the support of other teeth, thus providing the ability to preserve your good teeth.
- Eat Better: As the jawbone shrinks, your chewing efficiency is reduced making it difficult to eat certain foods. Dental implants can restore chewing efficiency comparable to that of natural teeth, allowing you to eat your favorite foods with confidence and without discomfort.
- Comfort & Convenience: Dental implants can eliminate the numerous inconveniences and maintenance required with removable dentures. You can regain nearly all the capabilities associated with natural teeth, giving you renewed self confidence and improved self esteem.
The Dental Implant Procedure
All treatment begins with a thorough exam and consultation. Typically, the process can take from three to six months. In some cases, the process may take longer because additional treatments, such as bone grafting and gum grafting, may be required to build up the site planned to receive the implant. The procedure and timeframe chosen depends on several factors; your dental health, the condition and quality of your jaw bone, and the number of your teeth involved. We will discuss all appropriate treatment options and recommendations with you in order to customize the best plan possible for your individual requirements and goals.
Implant restorations in our office usually involve two steps. First, one or more implants are precisely placed into the jaw bone to mirror the location of the root of your missing natural tooth. After appropriate healing time has taken place, to allow for the implant to fuse within the bone, we will then take impressions of your teeth and bite in order to custom fabricate a connector post (abutment) and crown. The abutment and crown are then attached to the implant, completing the process. Once treatment is complete, your results will look and feel completely natural and can last a lifetime.
Soft and Hard Tissue Grafting for Dental Implants
In order for an implant to have long-term success, quality bone and soft (gum) tissue must be present to support the implant. Many times, there is adequate bone and gum tissue present and grafting is not indicated. Sometimes grafting is performed to preserve the existing tissue for successful implant placement. Other times, bone and soft tissue is missing and must be grafted before the implant is placed.
Socket or Ridge Preservation – When a tooth is pulled a hole or socket is all that remains. As the extraction site heals some of the bone and soft tissue recedes making it difficult or sometimes impossible to place an implant. To maintain or preserve the bone and gum tissue a graft material is placed into the socket and sutured into place. This is allowed to heal and then the implant is placed.
Guided bone regeneration – When a tooth is pulled and the site is allowed to heal without grafting, many times inadequate bone remains. If this occurs, graft material is used to rebuild the ridge and a collagen membrane or barrier is placed to protect the graft as it heals. This procedure can be performed when small defects exist.
Onlay bone graft – If a large defect in the bone exists, more extensive grafting is necessary. With onlay bone grafting, a piece of bone is taken from a different site inside your mouth and screwed into place to fill in the defect and rebuild the site for future implant placement. Sometimes, a block of bone harvested from a cadaver source can be used instead of your own bone. This reduces the amount of surgical sites in the mouth, but tends to not be as predictable as using your own bone.
Other Dental Implant Options
A totally fixed case may not be the procedure of choice for you. Implant dentistry can still provide you with a host of options such as implant-supported removable dentures. With this approach, fewer implants are involved and the denture snaps into the implants. This is a cost effective and successful choice for patients missing all of their teeth, or for those unhappy with the fit of their current dentures.