Dental implants are artificial roots placed under the gum, designed to either replace a missing tooth or secure a partial or denture.
Dental implants feel very natural & are the first choice by dentists and patients for filling a missing space. They feel rather similar to the original missing tooth that most patients forget they even have an implant!
With dentures, dental implants commonly give them a “snap in” function to help with stability. Sometimes they can even allow the denture to be screwed even for an even more natural feel.
Dental implants are an excellent option for individuals who have lost one or more teeth and desire a secure, long-lasting replacement.
Dental implants can benefit individuals in several ways:
- They replace a single tooth or teeth without affecting the neighboring teeth
- They replace multiple teeth to avoid the need for a removable partial or denture as well
- They 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 which they require no modification or destruction to the neighboring teeth. This helps to limit the potential for future cavities and nerve damage to these other teeth.
What’s even better is that since implants don’t need these neighboring teeth as support, those teeth remain untouched and won’t have to bear the additional force and stress of doing the work of an extra tooth.
Dental implants do the work all on their own. Additionally, since affordable dental implants are made of titanium, there is no potential for cavity development.
Benefits to Dental Implants
- It feels like a natural tooth
- It helps maintain the jaw bone in that area & keeps neighboring teeth from shifting
- Implants can not get cavities
- Implants have – on average – a longer lifespan than a bridge
- Implants are easier to clean & maintain than a bridge because it feels like a natural tooth
- Implants do not require cutting on the neighboring teeth
- Implants are self-supporting, so – unlike a bridge — the neighboring teeth do not have to do any extra heavy lifting.
Denture Patients & Implants
Patients who currently wear a traditional denture can experience a truly life-changing event with the placement of dental implants. Dental implants can be placed into the jawbone under the denture in these individuals, allowing for the denture to snap into place.
This treatment can help the patient regain the ability to eat virtually all foods and smile confidently, knowing the denture is secured snugly in the mouth. No more worries about dentures falling out while speaking or at family events!
Additionally, suppose there is a desire to get rid of the denture completely. In that case, affordable dental implants can provide a tooth replacement option where the denture is screwed into the implants and becomes fixed in the mouth, and is no longer removable.
How Do Implants Work?
Dental implants fuse into the surrounding jawbone through a process known as Osseointegration. This allows the dental implant to function as a fixed and stable system to support artificial teeth.
Compared to conventional means of tooth replacement options like dentures and bridges, dental implants offer several advantages –
- Dental implants do not move or shift in the mouth, allowing the patient to eat, talk, and smile without worrying about their dentures falling out or any other discomfort. They feel very natural, just like your natural teeth, and most people forget they even have an implant.
- Dental implants are self-supporting. Unlike a bridge, they do not require drilling into or sacrificing adjacent teeth to use them as support. Bridges or the teeth supporting a bridge can also often crack under pressure. Bridges still have a place in dentistry when dental implants are not an option, but since dental implants leave the adjacent teeth alone and are self-supporting, they don’t put any extra stress or strain on the neighboring teeth. This is especially important in people with a heavy bite or who clench or grind their teeth. Dental implants leave the teeth next door to space alone and allow biting forces to be more evenly distributed.
- Since dental implants are placed in the jawbone, they preserve the bone structure and, in turn, help maintain the shape of the face.
- Dental implants can last almost a lifetime with the proper care and maintenance and do not require frequent replacements like dentures and bridges.
- Dental implants are much more comfortable & secure than dentures. One of the things we focus on in periodontics is quality of life. Everyone wants to eat & chew the foods they love, smile in photos and with their families, and not feel like they have to hide dentures or worry about their teeth falling out or getting loose. Dental implants feel like natural teeth, and so they offer the maintenance of very high quality of life.
- There is no upper age limit for dental implants. Quality of life is paramount, which becomes even more important in the later years of someone’s life. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed, and we’ve had many patients in their 80s & 90s ask for and successfully receive dental implant treatment to allow them to maintain their smile and comfort and ensure they can enjoy the food they wish to eat.
- There is a lower age limit for dental implants. Patients must be done growing, and their jawbones are done growing, to receive implants, so there is a lower age limit of around 16 for girls and 19 for boys. But this varies from person to person.
- Dental implants can be used to replace single or multiple missing teeth. Patients who have no teeth can opt for snap-in dentures mounted on multiple dental implants in the upper and lower arch to help make dentures much more secure & comfortable compared to the conventional kind.
Dental Implants Procedure
Although most people missing a tooth (or multiple teeth) are candidates for dental implants, a thorough evaluation will need to be performed to determine your individual needs. At this evaluation, Dr. Johnson will thoroughly discuss your treatment desires and goals, including how affordable dental implants could help you achieve these goals.
We will complete a detailed clinical and radiographic evaluation to assess the site into which a dental implant(s) would be placed. We will then explain the individual’s specific needs in detail to help an informed decision be made.
For an implant to be successful, the dental implant needs to be surrounded 360-degrees by good strong bone & gum tissue. Bone grafts are very commonly needed. Gum grafts are sometimes needed.
Our periodontal specialists will help determine if any grafting is needed in your case.
When a tooth is lost, the jawbone in that area doesn’t get any “exercise” or stimulation, so it shrinks like a muscle. If the jaw shrinks too much, there won’t be enough bone to support the implant and keep it healthy.
Our philosophy to prevent bone shrinkage is to place a bone graft at the time of tooth extraction to preserve the jawbone as much as possible.
If the tooth has already been extracted and missing for a while, our periodontist will evaluate the jawbone remaining. And he/she will also assess if there’s enough bone present or if you’ll need a bone graft, and if you are a candidate.
Bone grafts can come from many sources. Do not worry, however! In our case for dental implants, bone grafts are no longer taken from the hip in invasive surgery. We are fortunate that modern medicine has provided us with very successful bone grafts that we get right from our shelf! This makes it very easy and comfortable for you.
We primarily use donor bone grafts, most commonly coming from human donor bone or bovine bone, where the bone graft is processed and sterilized to remove all living cells and make them extremely safe.
All that’s remaining are the structural mineral and protein components. Both of them serve as a supportive structure for your bone-building cells to come & turn the graft into your bone.
The bone graft particles look like beach sand – or corn grits, if you’re familiar with those. Those tiny granules are placed delicately by our specialists and secured in place with a dissolvable membrane (like a “tarp”) to help regrow and support areas of the jawbone for an implant.
3 kinds of bone grafts commonly done for dental implants are:
- Ridge Preservation at Time of Extraction – This is a bone graft done at the same time the tooth is taken out. This is the simplest & most predictable type of bone graft, so we always recommend that if you’re considering an implant in the future, this bone graft is done simultaneously as the tooth extraction.
- Ridge Augmentation – This bone graft is done when a tooth is already missing, and the jawbone has shrunk, and there’s not enough bone to fully support an implant.
- In case of bone loss, this is done as a separate procedure before the implant is placed.
- In cases where the bone loss is more mild, we can do this simultaneously by placing the implant.
- Sinus Augmentation –The sinus space is like an air-filled balloon hanging out behind the cheekbones and above the tooth roots on the top jaw. This type of bone graft is done when the sinus has fallen (after tooth loss, or sometimes it just happens with gravity), and it doesn’t leave enough height for a dental implant. So a sinus lift is performed where the sinus membrane (like the rubber part of a balloon) is gently lifted in the spot where the implant is going to go, and a bone graft is placed to achieve more height.
- In cases of bone loss, this is done as a separate procedure before the implant is placed.
- In cases where the bone loss is more mild, we can do this at the same time as placing the implant.
Once dental implants are the right option and enough bone is present, dental implant surgery can be completed.
This is a much simpler procedure on the patient’s end than everyone expects. Our patients always return pleasantly surprised at their follow-up visit, as there is usually only very minimal discomfort.
Once the patient is comfortable administering a local anesthetic (“Novocain”), and with a light anxiety-relief medication if the patient chooses — the implant procedure starts with creating a space for the dental implant within the bone.
A small pilot hole is drilled, and then a routine x-ray is taken to check the precise angle and position of the pilot hole. Do not worry – the patient does not feel this at all and is usually very relaxed. Our highest priority is that our patients are comfortable and completely numb, not to experience any pain during the procedure.
Once the preparation of the space is complete, a dental implant is then placed securely into the bone. This is usually covered with a temporary healing cap that covers & plugs the implant until it is ready for a crown. You cannot see the implant itself as it is in the jawbone; all you will be able to see is the top of the small healing cap at the level of the gum.
If a bone graft at the time of implant placement is needed, this will occur at this time. The gum is then secured around the implant.
Dental implants are a teamwork effort between our periodontist (a specialist in the surgical aspect of a dental implant like tooth removal, bone grafting, and placement of the implant itself) – and your general dentist (an expert in the fabrication of the crown/tooth aspect of your implant and ensuring balance of the bite).
After a period of healing (ranging from 2-6 months), we’ll place a post into the top of the implant by the patient’s dentist. The patient’s dentist then creates the final crown, bridge, or denture.
Ridge Augmentation (Bone Grafting)
This procedure is used when there is inadequate bone width present into which an affordable dental implant can be placed. With this procedure, bone graft material is added to that portion of the bone deficient. After a healing period, often six months, a dental implant(s) can then be placed.
This procedure is often necessary when there is an inadequate bone height for a dental implant to replace an upper back tooth. In this area of the mouth, the sinuses tend to grow or droop with gravity, 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 regrow the lost height of bone. After a healing period, generally 6-9 months, a dental implant(s) can then be placed.
In more mild cases where only a small sinus lift is needed, the dental implant can often be placed at the same time in the same procedure.
This procedure is intended to prevent the loss of bone that often accompanies the removal of a tooth. By preventing this loss of bone, affordable 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. The bone graft material is then placed into the area previously occupied by the tooth. After a healing period, typically 4-6 months, a dental implant(s) can then be placed.
Expertise in Dental Implantology & Bone Grafts
At Periodontal Specialists, Dr. Johnson is our expert in performing dental implant procedures and has undergone several years of additional specialist training in dental implants, bone grafts, & sinus lifts.
If you are missing a tooth or teeth, feel free to call us for a consultation where she will help you to understand the procedures & determine if you are a good candidate while discussing your options with you.