What is a Dental Implant?

Dental Implants
A Sure Foundation for Restoration

Sometimes, permanent teeth are lost due to accident, injury, disease or extraction. In such cases, we often find dental implants to be a secure, functional replacement option because they do not rely on neighboring teeth for support. Sometimes, we will recommend implants as anchors for bridgework or fixed dentures as well. In any case, because they are permanently, surgically anchored to the jawbone as tooth root substitutes, implants offer advantages over other tooth replacement options. The implant itself consists of a metallic or bone-like ceramic posts, inserted into the jawbone below the gum surface at the location of the missing tooth. As the bone bonds to the post, it forms a secure foundation onto which artificial teeth are attached and shaped to match your existing teeth. The implant process generally requires a couple of separate steps, “anchoring” and then “attachment”. While we refer patients to experts for the first step, we’re fully equipped to attach or restore the units.

Bonding Base To Bone
To place an implant, the surgeon first must anchor the tooth root substitute “post” into your jawbone below the gum tissue. This post must form a solid, enduring base with sufficient stability to withstand the tremendous mechanical pressure involved in normal chewing, so we’ll typically allow 12 weeks to 6 months for the post to incorporate into the bone. Fortunately, most patients do not notice the post during this time. During the wait, the surgeon will provide a temporary bridge or dentures to facilitate eating and to help maintain facial muscle support. In the meantime, a lab carefully custom designs and manufactures artificial teeth to be placed over the implant tops.

Placing Prosthesis on Post
Once we’re certain that your implant post has bonded with your jawbone, we will fix the top of the implant onto the anchor post via a second surgery. This entails first uncovering each implant anchor, connecting it to a small post that protrudes above the gumline, and then completely covering it with the custom-made artificial tooth or prosthesis. As with all of her complex procedures, we’ll create a diagnostic wax-up first, and use a tomogram or surgical guide to ensure the restoration is attached at precisely the correct angle. This last step results in a secure, attractive, replacement tooth or set of teeth, designed to function as effectively as the remaining natural teeth. Depending on the number of teeth involved, this final part of the implant process usually requires no more than two months to complete.

Surveying Statistics of Success
Those unfamiliar with implant technology may question the success rate of such procedures. The technology is approximately 20 years old, and has proven successful in tooth replacement, depending primarily on the recipient’s health, as well as the location and function of the teeth being replaced. Teeth placed in the lower front jaw may be up to 95% successful, while side or rear placements may be only 85% successful. It’s also best if recipients are in good general health, with proper bone structure and healthy gums. Often, people unable to wear dentures are among those who benefit most from implants. On the other hand, chronic health problems such as clenching, bruxism, or systemic diseases may decrease the success rate of the procedure immensely. Finally, those who smoke or drink alcohol may also be poor implant candidates.

Concerning Cost and Commitment
Due to the surgery involved, implant procedures are typically more expensive than traditional bridgework. However, dental and medical insurance may cover portions of such restoration. It’s best to discuss this with our staff during your evaluation for implant placement, so that we can assist you in working with your insurance company.

Finally, as an implant candidate, you should seriously consider your own commitment to future oral health. As you might imagine, poor oral hygiene itself is a common cause of implant failure. This means that you’ll want to be sure and brush and floss around your implants at least twice a day, according to the specific instructions we give you. Further, you may need up to four annual professional cleanings to maintain healthy gums.