A dental implant is a prosthetic replacement for a missing tooth. As we know natural tooth structure consists of a root and a tooth so in a dental implant procedure, we replace the root with an implant and replace the tooth with a crown or denture. It is that straight forward! The implant itself provides a strong foundation for the crown and it can be either fixed or removable. Dental implant procedures are carried out in the dental office in 1 or 2 stages.
Dental implants are predominantly made of titanium. Titanium is a metal that is bio-compatible(compatible with a living tissue or a living system that is not toxic, injurious, or physiologically reactive and is not rejected by the immune system). All in all it means that titanium offers the best strength and durability. Dental implants are made in different sizes to suit the gap to be filled.
Dental implants are the most popular option for teeth replacement as they are strong, stable, and they function like your own natural teeth. They give back the confidence and self esteem to smile again.
There are three parts of an implant:
1. The implant device itself (which is placed directly into the bone)
2. The abutment piece that connects the implant device to the third part
3. The overlying crown or denture.
Best candidates for dental implants
Dental implants are the best option for people who have missing teeth. They offer the best permanent solution for tooth replacement and is most beneficial in regard to oral care and hygiene.
Dental implants are and option for people who have:
- A single tooth is missing – instead of a bridge
- Several teeth are missing – instead of bridges or partial dentures
- All teeth are missing – instead of dentures
- If a person is unhappy with their smile and want to renew their appearance
How do I know if I am a suitable candidate for dental implant?
- Almost everyone is a candidate for dental implants unless there is an untreated disease of the teeth, gums, or bone. More than likely a dentist will not carry out the treatment until these problems have been treated as they can affect the success of the implant surgery. If you are considering having dental implants, and you think that you may have a dental problem, contact your dentist to schedule an oral exam. It only takes about 30 mins including x-rays. If you are considering having dental work abroad, it is a good idea to have a quick exam and an x-ray at your local dentist’s clinic before traveling. This will then rule out any problems that may prevent you from having the treatment abroad.
What are the benefits to having dental implants?
There are many benefits and advantages of having dental implants:
- Improved oral function
- Prevent/reduce bone loss
- Able to eat what you want
- Better dental hygiene
- Improved facial appearance
- Boost your confidence and self esteem
- No worries about slippage or problems with eating
- Long lasting
Before the procedure is carried out:
Before having the procedure, a full oral examination is performed by your dentist. An x-ray is taken by either an OPG (panoramic x-ray) or a CT scan. These x-rays are used to analyze the density of the bone and tissue where the implant will be placed. Local anesthesia is usually adequate for this procedure, but for patients who are very nervous and anxious other forms of sedation is also available.
Remember to eat and drink fluids (non alcoholic) as normal before all procedures, do not miss breakfast and take all of your medications at normal times.
During the procedure:
An incision is made into the gum and a hole is drilled into the jawbone. Depending on the density of the bone your dentist will choose the best length for the implant device. Then incision is closed. If you already use a denture, you will continue to use it during the healing process. Sometimes the dentist may not close the gum and place an abutment directly on to the implant. A temporary crown might be placed or the current dentures might be adjusted to fit temporarily.
The healing time is usually 8 to 12 weeks. During the healing period, the implant device fuses to the bone and acts like a tooth root. Upon successful osseointegration, which is the structural connection that forms between your natural jawbone and the titanium implant, the next stage of the procedure starts.
The gum is re-opened to expose the implant. Then an abutment is screwed and tightened to the implant using special dental equipment. After this is done, a temporary crown is placed onto the abutment. The abutment needs to be protected from chewing forces to ensure successful healing. The temporary crown is used for a few days until the permanent crowns are ready.
After stage 1, when the implant device has been placed, the typical healing period is 8 to 12 weeks. During this time osseointegration takes place. The implant fuses to the bone and is ready to act a root and a strong foundation for the crown or denture.
After the crown or denture has been placed, some sensitivity might be experienced. Pain killers can be taken. Pain should subside after 2 – 3 days.
- Successful implant surgery depends on keeping the mouth as clean as possible.
- You should clean your teeth as normal but avoid the area where the implants have been placed on the day of surgery.
- Use interdental brushes if a bridge is in place.
- Rinsing your mouth with warm water and a pinch of salt is great way to help the area heal and keep it clean.
- Rinse your mouth after eating to keep the area clean.
- Try not to smoke until the area has healed as smoking limits healing of the mouth.
- You are advised not to smoke until the wound has healed as this limits healing the mouth.
- Swelling is normal after an implant and can be worse in the morning after lying flat throughout the night. Swelling usually subsides after 48 hours and can be reduced with ice packs. Place them on the cheek for 10 minutes at a time with a 15 – minute break.
- There may be some bruising on the skin but this will clear up in a few days.
- Avoid hot first drinks or hot food for the first day.
- Do not eat until the local anesthetic has worn off.
- Try not to rub or touch the area with your tongue or fingers.
- Pain should not be excruciating. Although pain is normal for a few days following surgery it can be easily managed with pain killers. If pain starts getting worse rather than getting better you should contact your dentist.
- Try to wear a denture as little as possible (if it covers the implant area). This will help protect the implant or bone graft. If the denture does not seem to fit properly after your surgery then you should have it adjusted. A badly – fitting denture can damage a healing implant.
- Stitches are normally dissolvable but usually remain for around 2 – 3 weeks.
- Some bleeding following surgery is normal. If it persists, apply pressure with a dampened gauze for up to 30 minutes.
- If you have been given antibiotics to take after your surgery then complete the full course.
- If you experience increasing pain or swelling after 3 – 4 days you should schedule an appointment with your dentist.
- A patient should avoid strenuous exercise up to 48 hours post surgery.