What are dental implants?

Dental Implant Surgery is a procedure that replaces tooth roots with metal, screw like posts and replaces damaged or missing teeth with artificial teeth that look and function much like real ones. How dental implant surgery is performed depends on the type of implant and the condition of your jawbone. Dental Implant surgery involves several procedures. The major benefit of implants is solid support for your new teeth – a process that requires the bone to heal tightly around the implant. Because this bone healing requires time, this process can take many months.

Why are dental implants needed?

Dental Implant surgery can offer a welcome alternative to dentures or bridgework that doesn’t fit well and can offer an option when a lack of natural teeth roots doesn’t allow building denture or bridgework tooth replacements.

Dental implants are surgically placed in your jaw bone where they serve as roots of missing teeth. Because the titanium in the implant fuses with your jawbone, the implants won’t slip, make noise or cause bone damage the way fixed bridgework or dentures might. And the materials can’t decay like your own teeth that support regular bridgework can.

Who is a candidate?

In general, dental implants may be right for you if you:

  • Have one or more missing teeth
  • Have jawbone that’s reached full growth
  • Have adequate bone volume to secure the implants or are able to have bone graft
  • Have healthy oral tissues
  • Don’t have health conditions that will affect bone healing
  • Are unable or unwilling to wear partial denture
  • Want to improve your speech
  • Are willing to commit several months to the process
  • Don’t smoke tobacco

What happens during dental implant procedure?

Dental implant surgery is usually surgery performed in multiple stages, with healing time between procedures. The process of placing a dental implant involves multiple steps, including:

  1. Damaged tooth removal
  2. Jawbone preparation (bone grafting), when needed
  3. Dental implant placement
  4. Waiting for healing and bone growth
  5. Abutment and Artificial tooth placement

The entire process can take many months from start to finish. Much of that time is devoted to healing and waiting for the growth of new bone in your jaw. Depending on your situation, the specific procedure done or the materials used, certain steps can sometimes be combined.

Once your gums heal, you'll have more impressions made of your mouth and remaining teeth. These impressions are used to make the crown — your realistic-looking artificial tooth. The crown can't be placed until your jawbone is strong enough to support use of the new tooth.

To control pain, anesthesia options during surgery include local anesthesia, sedation or general anesthesia. Talk to your dental specialist about which option is best for you. Your dental care team will instruct you about eating and drinking before surgery depending on what type of anesthesia you have.

How you prepare

The planning process for dental implants may involve a variety of specialists which including a surgeon (typically an oral and maxillofacial surgeon or a periodontist) and a doctor who designs and fits artificial teeth (a prosthodontist). Dr. Shiotsu is a surgically trained prosthodontist who tackles both aspects of implant dentistry.

Because dental implants require one or more surgical procedures, you must have a thorough evaluation to prepare for the process, including a:

  • Comprehensive dental exam involving dental X-rays and 3D images taken (CBCT)
  • Digital scan for models made of your teeth and jaw.
  • Review of your medical history.
  • Tell your doctor about any medical conditions and any medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs and supplements.
  • If you have certain heart conditions or orthopedic implants, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics before surgery to help prevent infection.
  • Treatment plan. Tailored to your situation, this plan takes into account factors such as how many teeth you need replaced and the condition of your jawbone and remaining teeth.

When bone grafting is required

If your jawbone isn't thick enough or is too soft, you may need bone grafting before you can have dental implant surgery. That's because the powerful chewing action of your mouth exerts great pressure on your bone, and if it can't support the implant, the surgery likely would fail. A bone graft creates a more solid base for the implant.

It may take several months for the transplanted bone to grow enough new bone to support a dental implant. In some cases, you may need only minor bone grafting, which can be done at the same time as the implant surgery. The condition of your jawbone determines how you proceed.

You can help your dental work — and remaining natural teeth — last longer if you:

  • Practice excellent oral hygiene. Just as with your natural teeth, keep implants, artificial teeth and gum tissue clean. Specially designed brushes, such as an interdental brush that slides between teeth, can help clean the nooks and crannies around teeth, gums and metal posts.
  • See your dentist regularly. Schedule dental checkups to ensure the health and proper functioning of your implants and follow the advice for professional cleanings.
  • Avoid damaging habits. Don't chew hard items, such as ice and hard candy, which can break your crowns — or your natural teeth. Avoid tooth-staining tobacco and caffeine products. Get treatment if you grind your teeth.

Want to schedule an appointment?