What are dental implants?

Dental implant Surgery is a procedure that replaces damaged or missing teeth with artificial teeth that function and look much like real ones. Dental implants are metal, screw-like posts that are surgically placed in the jawbone and mimic tooth roots.

Dental Implant surgery involves several procedures and how it is performed depends on the condition of your jawbone.

Why are dental implants needed?

Dental implant surgery is a technologically advanced alternative to traditional bridgework or dentures. Dental implants offer an option for patients that are unsatisfied with dentures that do not fit well or if their natural tooth roots do not support building a bridge or denture.

The major benefit of dental implants is to provide solid support for the jaw, distribute the bite force and harmonize the face and mouth.

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. Removal of the severely damaged or broken tooth
  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 growth of new bone in your jaw. Depending on your biology and circumstances, specific procedures may be required that may be combined in the same appointment or spread out at different appointments.

Once your gums heal, additional impressions will be taken of your mouth and remaining teeth. These impressions are used to make your final crown - your realistic looking artificial tooth. The crown cannot be placed until the jawbone is strong enough to support the use of the new artificial tooth.

When bone grafting is required

If your jawbone is not thick enough or is too soft, you may need a bone grafting procedure done before you can have dental implant surgery. The purpose of bone grafting is to create a more solid base for the implant. This is because the powerful chewing action of your mouth exerts great pressure on the bone, if bone quality and quantity are not adequate enough to support the implant, the surgery likely would fail.

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.

How you prepare

The planning process for dental implants may involve a variety of specialists which include a surgeon (typically an oral 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:

  • Review of your medical history.
  • Tell your doctor about any medical conditions and medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs and supplements.
  • A comprehensive dental exam involving dental x-rays and 3D images taken (CBCT).
  • Digital scan for models made of your teeth and jaw.
  • A treatment plan tailored to your situation, this plan takes into consideration factors such as how many teeth need replacement, the condition of your remaining teeth, and the quality and quantity of your jawbone.

To help our patients manage pain and anxiety, a variety of sedation options are available including nitrous oxide, oral sedation, IV sedation in addition to local 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 sedation you receive.

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

  • Dentures and implants are not a substitute for teeth, rather they are a substitute for having no teeth. Nothing beats real teeth. Our philosophy at Mercer Island Dental is to help you keep the teeth you have.
  • Seeing your dentist regularly for dental checkups can ensure the health and proper functioning of your mouth and teeth.
  • Avoid damaging habits. Do not chew hard items, such as ice or hard candy. These can break crowns and your natural teeth. Avoid tooth-staining tobacco and caffeine products. Get proper treatment if you have teeth grinding habits.
  • Practice excellent oral hygiene. Dental implants require good home care to ensure they last a long time. Treat implants and artificial teeth just as you would natural teeth, keep the gum tissues clean and healthy.
  • 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.
  • Regular professional cleaning promotes longevity of both your dental implants and natural teeth.

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