Dental implants are artificial roots, placed under the gum, that are designed to either replace a missing tooth (teeth) or to secure a partial or denture. They are a great option for those individuals that have lost one or more teeth and desire a secure, long-lasting replacement.
Dental implants can benefit individuals in several ways:
- Replace a single tooth or teeth without affecting the neighboring teeth
- Replace multiple teeth to avoid the need for a removable partial or denture
- Provide support for an existing partial or denture, making them more secure and comfortable.
When replacing a single tooth, dental implants are often the most natural tooth replacement option, both in function and ability to clean. They have the advantage over a traditional tooth replacement option, a bridge, in that they require no modification to the neighboring teeth. This helps to limit the potential for future cavities and nerve damage to these other teeth. Additionally, since dental implants are made of titanium, there is no potential for cavity development.
Patients that currently wear a traditional denture can experience a truly life-changing event with the placement of dental implants. In these individuals, dental implants can be placed into the gum tissue, under the denture, allowing for the denture to snap into place. This treatment can help the patient regain the ability to eat virtually all foods and smile with confidence knowing the denture is secured snugly in the mouth. Additionally, if there is a desire to get rid of the denture completely, dental implants can be used to provide a tooth replacement option that is fixed in the mouth.
Although most people that are missing a tooth (teeth) are candidates for dental implants, a thorough evaluation will need to be performed to determine your individual needs. At this evaluation, the periodontist will thoroughly discuss your treatment desires and goals, including the ways in which dental implants could potentially help you achieve these goals. A detailed clinical and radiographic evaluation will be completed to assess the site into which a dental implant(s) would be placed. The individual’s specific needs will then be explained in great detail to help an informed decision be made.
Once deciding dental implants are the right option for the individual, the surgery can be completed. This procedure starts with getting the patient comfortable with sedation (oral or intravenous), if desired, followed by administration of a local anesthetic (Novocaine). The bone is accessed, and a space is created for the implant within the bone. The dental implant is then placed securely into the bone and a short cap is placed. The gum is then secured around the implant.
After a period of healing (ranging from 2-6 months), a post is placed into the top of the implant. The patient’s dentist then creates the final crown, bridge or denture.
Occasionally, there is not enough bone into which a dental implant can be successfully placed. In these situations, additional procedures may be required to create a more favorable environment for the dental implant. Also, if the tooth is still in place and an implant is planned, a procedure can be completed to help prevent this loss of bone structure.
Ridge Augmentation (Bone Grafting)
This procedure is used when there is inadequate bone present into which a dental implant can be placed. With this procedure, bone graft material is added to that portion of the bone which is deficient. After a period of healing, often six months, a dental implant(s) can then be placed.
This procedure is often necessary when dental implants are needed to replace the upper back teeth. In this area of the mouth, the sinuses have a tendency to grow, leaving an insufficient height of bone into which a dental implant can be placed. With this procedure, bone graft material is placed into the sinus to help regrown the lost height of bone. After a period of healing, generally 6-9 months, a dental implant(s) can then be placed.
This procedure is intended to prevent the loss of bone that often accompanies the removal of a tooth. By preventing this loss of bone, dental implant treatment becomes more predictable and timely. This procedure is completed at the same time the tooth is removed. The tooth is gently removed, preserving all the bone that is currently present. Bone graft material is then placed into the area previously occupied by the tooth. After a period of healing, typically 4-6 months, a dental implant(s) can then be placed.