What are Dental implants?
Simply put, a dental implant is an artificial tooth that is placed directly within the jawbone to replace a missing natural tooth. An implant is typically made out of medical grade titanium metallic material. However, metal free options such as zirconia are available for people with specific metal allergies. Dental implants are not limited to single tooth replacement but in fact can replace multiple missing teeth and even restore function and esthetics to people whom have lost all of their teeth.
Why do I need Dental implants?
Dental implants are an excellent option to replace natural teeth that are lost due to a number of reasons. These include teeth that are lost due to dental decay, periodontal disease, infections, or physical trauma. Losing teeth may severely affect a person’s ability to chew food efficiently and their speech. It may also cause loss of bone in the area where the tooth was lost and shifting of adjacent teeth.
When do I need Dental implants?
To place a dental implant in the jawbone, sufficient surrounding bone is required to ensure proper integration of the implant with the bone. After a tooth is lost, the bone around the missing the tooth starts to resorb and shrink away gradually. The majority of the bone is lost within the first 3-12 months after a tooth is extracted and can continue slowly for years afterwards. Thus, it is typically recommended to place the implant within the first few months after a tooth is lost to maximize the amount of surrounding bone. In some cases, it may be viable to place the implant the same day as the natural tooth is being extracted, in a technique called ‘immediate implant placement’.
How do I get Dental implants?
The Dental implant process happens in multiple phases.
Preparation phase- The patient’s medical history and implant suitability status are assessed. This includes testing for any general medical conditions that can increase the failure rate of the implant. In addition, the patient’s current dentition status, gums and jawbone are assessed using X-rays and clinical examinations to determine if sufficient bone is present. In case of inadequate bone, grafting options are available to increase the width, height and thickness of the jawbone.
Placement phase- In this phase, the surgeon or the Dentist prepares the jawbone to receive the implant. Once the implant is placed, a period of 3-6 months of healing time is required for the implant and the jawbone to fuse completely in unison, in a process called ‘Osseointegration’.
Restoration phase- Once the implant is deemed completely fused to the jawbone, the Dentist then places a post which acts as an extension to the implant (abutment). A fake tooth crown made out of porcelain is then attached to the abutment and the implant process is complete.
Maintenance phase- Just like natural teeth, implants also need to be cared for and maintained. Within the first year in use, your Dentist may wish to see you quarterly to ensure optimal functioning of the implant. If all is well after the first year, annual checkups are recommended to ensure continued well-being of the implant. Make sure to consult with your dentist about what you could do at home to keep your implant and the rest of your teeth in optimal and healthy status.