If you are missing a tooth, or multiple teeth, dental implants may be the answer. Dental implants act as an artificial tooth root and support a replacement tooth. These prostheses can help prevent the bone and gum loss that often occurs when a tooth is missing. While dental implants are generally considered to be a cosmetic procedure, they’re actually categorized as prosthetic dentistry. Replacing missing tooth roots provides additional stability and prevents issues with eating and speaking clearly.
What Causes Tooth Loss?
There are a number of reasons why you may lose teeth, including:
- Tooth decay
- Root canal failure
- Gum disease (Periodontitis)
- Trauma to the mouth (tooth injury)
- Excessive wear and tear
- Congenital defects
Downey Dental Implants: Candidacy and Treatment Planning
The first step in determining whether or not you will be a good candidate for dental implants is scheduling a visit with our dentist. During this initial consultation, your teeth and gums will be examined and our dentist will determine whether or not you are beginning to experience any bone loss in the area of your missing teeth. In some cases this will involve computer tomography (CT) scans and dental x-rays. You will need to have sufficient bone structure remaining in order for the dental implants to be placed properly. These scans will also help the dentist determine exactly where the implant should be placed.
If your oral hygiene routine, personal habits, bone structure, oral tissues, and personal commitment to follow after care instructions indicate that you would be a good candidate for dental implants, our dentist will begin to develop a treatment plan with you. If you do not have sufficient gum tissue, or if there isn’t enough bone structure to support a traditional implant, it may be recommended that you try a mini implant. In some cases, bone or soft tissue grafts may also be required.
The length of your treatment and the number of appointments that you will require will depend on your individual situation. You will also be advised of what you can expect following each procedure that will be necessary. Our dentist will discuss with you your preferences for anesthesia or sedation dentistry during your upcoming appointments as well.
What is Osseointegration?
Once your dental implant has been placed, it will be almost impossible to tell it apart from your natural teeth. This is due in part because the implant acts as a connection between the prosthesis and the living bone and gum tissue. The lower portion of the implant will undergo a process known as osseointegration, which is crucial to the success of the implant.
Osseointegration is the natural process that anchors the dental implant to the jaw bone, and can take between three and six months. Once this process is complete, your dental implant will be capped with a dental crown. Without osseointegration, your dental implant will not become stabilized and will eventually fail completely.
Placing Your Dental Implant
A dental implant can be used to replace missing teeth any time after adolescence. This is because the bone must be finished growing for proper osseointegration to occur. If you have other medical conditions such as periodontal disease, diabetes, or oral cancer, these will need to be correctly treated before a dental implant can be successfully placed.
The first step in placing your dental implant is preparing your jaw bone for the implant. To do this, a small pilot hole will be drilled into the bone where the missing teeth were. This hole will be where the titanium screw portion of the implant will be placed. Our dentist will work very carefully to avoid causing damage to facial structures and the alveolar nerve. Usually, a surgical guide will be created using the dental x-rays and CT scans that were taken during your initial consultation.
Next, the implant will be placed. The small pilot hole will be carefully widened, and the implant screw will be placed. Then, the surrounding gum tissue will be pulled over the implant and secured. A protective cover will be placed on top of the implant to prevent any infection and to encourage healing. After a six month osseointegration period, the implant will be uncovered, and an abutment will be placed on the implant screw. This will hold the tooth replacement in place. In some cases, a temporary crown may need to be placed first while your gums reshape themselves so that the final implant will fit properly and comfortably.
Recovering from the Implant Procedure
How quickly you recover following the placement of a dental implant will depend on a number of factors. It is important that you diligently follow good oral hygiene procedures, including brushing twice per day and flossing once per day. This will help encourage the implant to fuse properly and prevent infection following the implant procedure.
You may experience some discomfort following your implant surgery, however it should be minimal. You may experience some minor swelling in your face and gums, as well as some bruising and minor bleeding. You will usually be prescribed some pain medications to help alleviate this discomfort. Healing from having the implant screw placed in the jaw can take up to six months, while healing from having the final crown placed may take up to two months.
Implant Surgery Follow-up and Aftercare
For the first week following your implant placement, you will be asked to restrict your diet to soft foods only. You will need to follow any special care instructions for cleaning the implant area during the healing process to ensure that it heals and fuses properly with the bone. One of the main causes of implant failure is patients who fail to brush and floss properly. You will also need to avoid smoking, as this is also associated with high implant failure rates. Failing to follow proper oral hygiene practices and care instructions from the dentist can lead to an infection at the implant site.