- Most comfortable when you eat, speak, and smile
- Best function when you speak and chew
- Most stable, not wobbly
- Feels like original tooth
- Food does not get caught
Dental implants are a more natural looking option compared to dentures or bridges because implants look and feel just like your own teeth. Because implants won’t slip or shift in your mouth, they allow you to speak and eat with comfort and confidence. Implants are a good value because they can last a lifetime with good care.
During this procedure, an artificial tooth root is placed into your jaw, and after a healing period, an artificial tooth is attached to the root.
The first step in implant treatment is talking with your dentist. He or she can help you decide whether implant treatment is right for you. There are many different kinds of implants. Treatment can take only one day, or it can take several months, or somewhere in between. Your dentist can outline a treatment plan that is most likely to be successful for you.
There are three general phases of implant treatment:
1. Placement of the Implant
The dentist surgically places the implant into the jawbone. There may be some swelling and/or tenderness after the surgery, so pain medication is usually prescribed to ease the discomfort. Your dentist may recommend a diet of soft foods, cold foods, and warm soup during the healing process.
2. The Healing Process
What makes an implant so strong is that the bone actually grows around it and holds it in place. This process is called osseointegration (OSS-e-o-in-te-GRAY-shun), meaning “combines with the bone.” Osseointegration takes time. Some patients might need to wait until the implant is completely integrated, up to several months, before replacement teeth can be attached to the implant. Other patients can have the implants and replacement teeth placed all in one visit.
3. Placement of the Prosthesis (artificial tooth or teeth)
For a single tooth implant, the dentist custom makes a new tooth for you, called a dental crown. It is based on a size, shape, color, and fit that will blend with your other teeth. Implant-supported bridges or dentures are also made to fit your mouth and your implants. Once completed, the man-made teeth are attached to the implant posts.
The prosthesis usually takes some time to make. In the meantime, your dentist may give you a temporary crown, bridge or denture. This can help you eat and speak until the permanent replacement is ready.
Types of Dental Implants
Depending on how many missing teeth you have, there are a few different types of implant treatment options.
Single Tooth Implants
The single tooth implant replaces the missing tooth’s roots. A single tooth implant is a stand alone unit and does not involve treating the teeth next to it.
Implant-Supported Bridges and Dentures
Dental implants may be used to support a bridge when several teeth are missing. The bridge replaces the lost natural teeth and some of the tooth roots. An implant-supported bridge does not require support from surrounding teeth.
If you are missing all of your teeth, an implant-supported denture can replace the missing teeth and some of the tooth roots. Because the dental implants integrate with the jawbone, an implant-supported denture tends to be comfortable and stable, allowing you to bite and chew naturally.
Who is a Good Candidate?
Most patients find that an implant is secure and stable–a good replacement for their own tooth. If you are in good general health, with a jawbone that can support an implant, this treatment may be an option for you. In fact, your health is more of a factor than your age.
Implants, however, are not an option for everyone. Patients should be medically evaluated before any implant surgery is scheduled. Patients either must have enough bone to support the implant, or be good candidates for surgery to build up the bone where the implant will be placed.
Chronic illnesses, such a diabetes or leukemia, may interfere with healing after surgery. Patients with these issues may not be good candidates for implants. Using tobacco can also slow healing.
If your dentist does recommend implant treatment, careful oral hygiene is very important for the success of the implant. You must spend time caring for the implant and making sure the area around it is very clean. If not, you may increase your risk for gum disease, which can weaken the bone and tissues needed to support the implant.