Dental Implants a perfect solution to replacing your Missing teeth

When you are missing your teeth due to damage or trauma, you can consider dental implants as an option to replace your missing teeth. To help you decide if this is an ideal option for you, you should learn about the process involved, the different kinds of artificial teeth as well as the risks and benefits of the implant procedure.

Because you are missing some of your teeth, you may also notice that your social life is affected. Not only this, but you may also be missing out on good nutrition.

Having dental implants will effectively fill out the gaps due to the missing teeth. Implants are efficient, secure and comfortable when compared to bridgework or dentures.

Are Dental Implants for you?

Before you imagine yourself having gorgeous teeth, you must be aware how dental implantation works. For starters, it is very different from just replacing your teeth with artificial ones. These implants come in the form of metal threaded cylinders which serve as your missing teeth's roots. The dental implant, also known as cylinder or post, will be implanted to your jawbone, located beneath your gum tissue, via surgery. An extension or abutment will then be attached to the top of the implant, where a crown (artificial tooth) will be attached. If you check the entire dental implant it actually consists of three pieces.

You can choose to just have one or several dental implants but only healthy adults who are missing some of their teeth are qualified to undergo dental implant procedure. A specialized dentist called a periodontist, together with your regular dentists and oral and maxillofacial surgeon would provide you with helpful advice and tips when considering this option.

To be a good candidate for a dental implant procedure, you must:

  • Have missing teeth (one or more)
  • Have fully-grown or matured jaw bone
  • Possess adequate bone where the implant can be secured
  • Possess oral tissues that are healthy
  • Not have any health disorder that could hinder bone healing
  • Not be able to wear dentures
  • Need to improve the way you speak
  • Be willing to commit to long months of procedure

In addition to all these, you must also be able to shoulder the cost of dental implants since they can be quite expensive and in most instances, not covered by your health insurance. Since the cost of dental implants greatly varies, you should seriously take the time to look around and compare prices.

Dental Implant: Preparing for the Surgery

In order for you to know how to prepare for implant surgery, you must learn what the procedure involves.

For starters, you will have to undergo a complete dental examination, which could include x-rays as well as dental impressions. You should also disclose any health-related information that you might think could be relevant including any medication you are currently taking.

Heart conditions and orthopedic or vascular implants will require some antibiotics in order to prevent infections before surgery.

Each dental implant procedure is tailor-made for your teeth condition. Factors such as the number of teeth to be replaced and the jawbone's health condition should be considered. The creation of this treatment plan may require the input of:

  • Surgeon (maxillofacial and oral): a dentist who diagnose and treats any diseases or disorders related to the jaw, face and mouth.
  • Periodontist: another dentist who diagnose and treats  any disorders pertaining to the structures supporting the teeth.
  • Prosthodontist: specialized dentist who makes and fits artificial teeth replacements

How long does the process take?

When you undergo surgery for dental implants, it usually involves several steps or stages. On the average, the entire process of dental implant lasts between three and nine months, sometimes longer. Of course, you have to consider that this period includes the healing and re-growth of new jaw bones.

What to Expect

Each dental implant surgery is done based on the need of the patient, the kind of implant to be used and the overall jawbone condition. Basically, the cylinder used for implants is implanted to the jawbone and you must let this heal first for a couple of months. The abutment is then attached to the cylinder, followed by another couple of months of healing. If all goes well, the artificial tooth will now be attached to the abutment-cylinder. In some cases, the entire process takes longer because some patients require bone grafting.

Why is Bone Grafting needed?

Sometimes a person's jawbone is not strong or thick enough to support dental implants. If this is the case, you might require bone grafting in order to ensure that your jaw bone can support the dental implant. If your jawbone can not handle the pressure exerted by the teeth, then it would be likely that the dental implant will not be successful. On the other hand, undergoing bone grafting will guarantee that you will have a solid base for your implant.

The process of bone grafting is simple. A small piece of bone originating from another area of your body, like the hip, is transplanted to the jawbone. This particular bone can be expected to fuse with your existing jaw bone and grow. It takes as long as nine months for the transplanted bone to grow and be strong enough to support your dental implant. In any case, the health condition of your jawbone is the determining factor for the treatment plan.

Dental Implant: Placing the titanium post

Whether you undergo bone grafting or not, the cylinder or the dental implant will still be placed in the jawbone by surgery. In most instances, the surgical procedure does not require the patient to be confined in the hospital and the procedure can actually be completed in a dental office.

Initially, you will receive anesthesia to deaden the pain sensation. Options available include local anesthesia, general anesthesia or sedation. You and the dental specialist can determine which among these is ideal for your condition. Before your surgery, you will be given instructions by the dental team regarding the intake of food and drinks. These instructions are usually based on the kind of anesthesia to be used on you. If you will be given a general anesthesia, for example, you will likely be asked to have a companion who will take you home once the surgery is completed.

The surgery involves cutting your gum open and exposing the bone. After, holes will be drilled so that the cylinder or dental implant can be placed. Because the dental implant will function as the root of your tooth, it will be deeply-implanted. Once secured, the gums will be stitched and closed. Thus, the cylinder will be located just beneath the gum's surface and not visible.

Since no artificial tooth has been placed yet, you will still have a gap in your teeth. If you want, you can use a denture to temporarily fill in the gap as you wait for the healing period to be over.

Waiting for Growth of the Bone

As soon as the cylinder or dental implant is placed in the jawbone, a process called osseointegration will start. Basically, the bone will grow and fuse with the cylinder and it takes as long as six months for the process to be completed. This phase of the dental implant procedure is very important since it will determine if you have a solid enough base for your artificial tooth.

Abutment Placement

As soon as the process of osteointegration is completed, you will undergo another surgery. This time, the surgery will be done to place the abutment where the crown or artificial tooth will be attached. Placing the abutment requires the re-opening of the gum, exposing the cylinder. The abutment is then attached to the cylinder. The surgery is very simple and only requires the use of local anethesia. As soon as the abutment is in place, the tissues of the gum will be closed again although this time, they will not cover the abutment.

There are some instances that the surgery for the abutment and the cylinder is done simultaneoulsy. This means that you will only have to undergo a surgical procedure only once. Unfortunately, choosing this option also means that the cylinder and abutment will be visible when the mouth is open. And since some people feel self-conscious, they prefer to have separate surgical procedures.

Selecting Artificial Teeth

For about two weeks after the abutment is put into place, your gums will have to be completely-healed before the new tooth can even be attached. Dental impressions will be obtained from you and will be used as model for the prosthesis or artificial tooth. These crowns can only be placed if your jawbone is already strong enough.

In general, you can choose between two kinds of artificial teeth. You can ask your dentist to help you in making the right choice. These include:

Implant Prosthesis (Removable) - like the traditional denture, this type of artificial teeth is removable. Mounted on a frame made of metal, with the artificial teeth completely surrounded by pink-colored plastic gum, this implant prosthesis is the ideal choice for people missing several teeth in their lower jaw. In addition, it is considerably more affordable and certainly more secure than the conventional dentures.

Implant Prosthesis (Fixed) - unlike the removable prosthesis, this type is cemented or screwed permanently in the abutment. These artificial teeth can not be removed for cleaning or when sleeping. If budget is not an issue, you can choose this kind of artificial teeth. You can even choose to replace several of your missing teeth and each crown will be attached to a single abutment-cylinder.

After The Surgery

You may feel slight discomforts when you undergo these surgeries for your dental implants. These include:

  • Skin and gum bruising
  • Swelling of the face and gums
  • Pain, particularly on the site of the implant
  • Some bleeding
  • Slight stiffness of the muscles in the jaw region, resulting to difficulties in opening your mouth

For any of these discomforts, it is recommended that you consult your dental implant surgeon. In most cases, your surgeon will prescribe some medication to relieve pain and even antibiotics to prevent infection.

The swelling and pain may require you to eat only soft food for at least five days. The stitches used depend on whether they dissolve or not. If not, your dentist will remove them after 10 days.

Tips to Ensure Success of Dental Implants

In order to make sure that your surgery is a success and you maintain natural-looking teeth, follow these tips:

  • Follow an excellent oral hygiene program: like natural teeth, these dental implants must always be kept clean. There are actually toothbrushes specially-designed for this. The inter-dental toothbrush, for example, is able to clean hard-to-reach areas of the gums, teeth and implants.
  • Regularly visit your dentist: you should make an effort to see your dentist at least once a year to ensure that your implants are still functioning properly.
  • Avoid bad habits: these include chewing hard items, like ice or candies. Teeth-staining caffeine and tobacco products should also be avoided.

If Dental Implants Fail?

Of course, there are cases when the implant was not successful. An example is when the jaw bone failed to fuse to the cylinder sufficiently. In this case, the procedure is stopped and you will be asked to return after another couple of months before the process is started again.

Another case is when the implant becomes loose. This is remedied by removing and replacing the old one.

Risks of Dental Implants

Because the procedure requires surgery, dental implants pose some risks to your health, although very minor only. These risks include:

  • Possible infection
  • Injury to surrounding structures ( nasal cavity, teeth, blood vessels)
  • Nerve damage, resulting to numbness, tingling or pain
  • Sinus problems due to protrusion of the implants to the sinus cavities

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