Consistent and thorough oral care is very important and goes beyond a bright white smile. Decades of research has proven caring for your teeth and gums has a direct and positive impact on overall health and can actually add years to your life. That’s quite a difference from just cleaning the Oreo residue off of your teeth before you go to bed.
Brushing every day, flossing, and regular dental visits should be an active part of your daily routine but some people, due to bad habits, chipped or damaged teeth, or unfortunate afflictions, experience oral issues severe enough to require dental implants.
Succinctly defined, dental implants are specially designed medical devices used as substitutes for missing teeth. The device serves as an artificial tooth root which becomes a platform for various types of dental prosthesis such as dentures, crowns, or bridges. This fascinating technology allows dental surgeons to dramatically improve patients’ oral health.
Types of Tooth Implants
The two most common dental implants are endosseous root-form and osseointegrated. The former involves embedding the implant into bone, where the implant closely resembles the shape of a tooth’s root.
Osseointegrated is a direct connection between living bone tissue and the implant.
When considering an implant as a viable treatment option, your dentist must first determine if you are a good candidate by evaluating your overall health, jawbone quality, and everyday habits such as smoking and tooth grinding. Other common indicators for dental implants include:
- Missing teeth
- Adequate bone structure
- Healthy oral tissue
- Inability to wear dentures
Once you are confirmed to receive an implant, it is important to become familiar with its three components; the fixture, abutment, and prosthesis (or crown).
Examine an illustration of a dental implant and you will notice the fixture closely resembles the threaded shaft of a bolt. This is the part that is embedded into the jawbone, below the gum line, and fuses with the jawbone to act as an artificial tooth root.
Material used in implant fixtures is typically metal, such as highly pure titanium; or ceramic such as zirconia.
An implant’s surface area is usually smooth, while some oral surgeons prefer a slightly roughened surface to increase surface area. Special bone-regeneration material, including hydroxyapatite, is sometimes applied to the fixture to speed up the fusion process. Note, however, that bone healing typically takes many months.
The implant abutment is a small “stud” extending above the gum line. This component supports the crown and secures it to the fixture and is traditionally added after fusion is complete.
Similar to implant fixtures, abutments are made of metal, ceramic, or hybrid material and may also be constructed as an integrated fixture-abutment component.
The prosthesis of an implant is the final dental work—the icing on the cake, if you will. This includes crowns, dentures, or bridges which are cemented, screwed, or clipped into place.
With generations of studies and implementation behind us, today’s dental implants are specifically designed and manufactured with incredible strength and will last for decades.
Preparing for the Implant Process
Dental implants require surgical procedures and as such, patients must complete thorough evaluations to properly prepare. This process may include multiple specialists beyond your regular dentist, including an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (specializing in mouth, jaw and face), periodontist (gums and bones), or prosthodontist (artificial teeth).
A patient’s evaluation will include a comprehensive dental exam with x-rays and models of your teeth and jaw, thorough medical history review, and final treatment plan.
What to Expect, Risks, and Post-Op
As with any surgery, dental implant surgery comes with a handful of risks, although these are rare and easily treated. Some of these risks include infection, damage to surrounding teeth, nerve damage, or sinus issues.
One of the most attractive aspects of dental implant surgery is it is an outpatient procedure performed in stages allowing healing time between. While the entire process can take many months, much of the time consists of the healing and bone regrowth phase.
After the procedure, patients can expect traditional discomfort including swelling of the gums, bruising on the skin, and pain in the mouth. Medications and antibiotics usually help ease the body back into a comfortable state.
To learn more and discuss your options, call Elevate Dental at (210) 686-1888.