What is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is a durable, artificial tooth that’s fused into the jaw bone in place of a natural tooth. It’s an effective way to replace a damaged or missing tooth caused by tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, or dental injury.
This tooth replacement option doesn’t require a messy adhesive and provides a strong foundation for either a permanent or removable prosthetic. Best of all, dental implants are the only reliable solution that:
- Supports neighboring teeth
- Restores chewing and speaking function
- Matches the look of your natural teeth
- Stimulates natural bone growth
- Enhances your overall appearance
Planning Before Placement
Prior to the procedure, patients schedule an appointment with their local dentist for a comprehensive exam of the jaw, teeth, and mouth. During this time, your dentist will ask about your smile goals and discuss your treatment options.
Dental implant candidacy is determined by the general health of the patient and the condition of their adjacent teeth and jaw bone. This can mean the shape, size, and position of the jaw bone and surrounding teeth.
If you’re not an ideal candidate, implant specialists like Dr. Amanda Sheehan can help you to undergo a supplementary treatment to better prepare for implant placement. These treatments can include bone grafting to generate healthy bone mass, or gum disease therapy to heal and strengthen surrounding gums.
Factors of Implant Failure
The failure of implant placement is determined by a number of factors, such as:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Smoking or use of tobacco products
- Certain medical conditions, like diabetes
These can increase the risk of failure and the chances of developing gum disease that affects implants, referred to as peri-implantitis. This variant of gum disease heightens the risk of long-term implant failure.
Creating a Dental Implant
The typical dental implant consists of three parts — the fixture, the abutment, and the restoration. Here’s a breakdown:
- The fixture is a titanium screw-shaped piece with a roughened or smooth surface, resembling a tooth’s root.
- The abutment is shaped like a cap, which is placed over the implant fixture’s top.
- The restoration is a crown that’s custom-created in a laboratory to match the shape and color of the rest of your teeth.
Most implants are crafted with pure titanium, but some dentists provide zirconia-based implants, also known as ceramic implants. This restoration is created in one-piece or two-piece devices.
Dental implants also have a textured surface to enhance the surface area and success of osseointegration, when the implant fuses with the bone. This texture is designed through etching, anodic oxidation, or various-media blasting.
Lawrenceville’s implant provider, Dr. Helios Houenou provides mini dental implants as a smaller form of traditional implants. They’re created from a smaller titanium post with a ball on the end, along with a socket and a rubber ring to attach the tooth.
Placing a Dental Implant
Unlike traditional dentures and bridges, dental implants are durable, long-lasting, and help heal the jaw bone from original tooth loss. The implant process happens in a few simple steps:
- The titanium fixture is surgically placed into the jaw bone and left to heal. The healing process can take as little as two weeks and as much as a few months.
- During this time, a process called osseointegration occurs. This is when the titanium in the implant fuses with the jaw bone to create a stable foundation for the restoration.
- While it’s healing, your dentist will create a customized crown in-lab to match the color and shape of your natural teeth. No one will be able to tell the difference.
- Once the surgical site has healed, the abutment is placed and the prosthetic (tooth, crown, or denture) is attached to the implant.
Following this process step-by-step is essential — without proper healing during osseointegration, it can be difficult for the bone to regenerate. This can lead to weakened jawbone, hollowed out cheeks, and signs of premature aging.
Montana’s implant specialist, Dr. Dan McAllister, suggests that most dental implant cases can be completed within three to six months from start to finish. With the right steps, the dental implant procedure is complete and your smile is all ready to go!