Dental care has made spectacular advances in the modern world, especially in recent decades, yet millions of adults in the United States still suffer the unfortunate loss of their teeth. These adults may lose teeth due to injuries or as a result of periodontal disease or tooth decay. Bridges and dentures remain popular options, but a variety of dental implants are also now available for adults who are dealing with the loss of their teeth. Dental implants create a foundation for either removable or permanent replacement teeth.
Most dental implant patients are quite pleased with the results of the treatment, which can include an improved personal appearance, a great deal more comfort, easier eating and speaking, improved self-esteem, and all-around better oral health. Implants are also quite durable – in fact, if cared for properly, they can last a lifetime. Implants remove the inconvenience – as well as the embarrassment – of dentures and everything that denture-wearing entails. Dental implants never have to be taken out. Most patients report that implants feel natural and comfortable. When connected to implants, bridges and dentures won’t shift or slip in your mouth, either.
With more than sixty companies now manufacturing dental implants, dentists are more likely than ever to have available the implant treatment that’s just right for any particular patient. Dental implants can be categorized by their shape and placement. The procedures used to place the implants can be conducted in one stage or in two stages. In southern California, if you are considering dental implants, you’ll want to make that decision after a consultation with an experienced San Diego family dentist. What you’re reading now is intended as a general overview of the most popular implant options currently available.
PRECISELY HOW DOES DENTAL IMPLANT SURGERY WORK?
The dental implant is a small post made of titanium implanted into the bone socket of a lost tooth. As the bone heals, it grows around the implant, securing it in the jaw. Healing typically lasts six to twelve weeks. After the implant and jawbone have bonded, a small connector called an abutment is attached to the implant to hold the replacement tooth – the crown – which then attaches to the abutment. And rather than crowns, some patients may have an implant and attachments designed for a removable denture.
Endosteal dental implants are frequently used in two-stage procedures. They often replace – or are implanted as an alternative – to detachable dentures and bridges. Endosteal implants are directly surgically implanted into the jaw bone. Subperiosteal implants are frequently used in one-stage procedures. They are set on the jaw bone, inside the gum tissue. Subperiosteal implants can hold dentures securely for individuals who do not otherwise have sufficient bone height.
The most common dental implant procedure is the two-stage procedure. The implant is set into the jaw bone so that it sits flush with bone under the gum. Then, the gum tissue is stitched close to protect the implant while the bone heals and fuses. After healing, a final surgery uncovers the implant to attach the abutment. In a one-stage implant procedure, a longer, one-piece implant is set in the jaw bone. When healed, the abutment and crown can be placed without additional surgery.
A two-piece implant may also sometimes be used, but in this instance, extra care must be taken so that the healing process is not delayed or obstructed. In certain particular cases, the implant and crown can both be placed in one surgical session. The implant is placed immediately after extraction and the crown is placed quickly after the implant. Only patients with adequate bone density may qualify for this procedure.
One-stage and two-stage implant procedures both have high success rates. If implants are in your future, talk with your San Diego family dentist or your oral surgeon. Together, you and your dentist can develop the dental implant treatment plan that’s right for you individually. While periodontists and oral surgeons have been trained to perform dental implant surgery, many family dentists have also received the training and have substantial experience performing dental implant surgery procedures.
WHO QUALIFIES FOR DENTAL IMPLANTS?
Generally speaking, adults who are healthy enough for a dental extraction or oral surgery will also qualify for a dental implant. Patients need healthy gums and sufficient bone density to secure the implant. Implant candidates must commit to good oral hygiene practices and to frequent office visits. Chronic smokers, heart disease and diabetes patients, and other individuals may not qualify and must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Your own family dentist can probably tell you quite quickly if dental implants are (or are not) right for you.
For most patients, dental implant treatment will cost more than the conventional approaches to tooth loss – bridges and dentures. Of course, if a patient requires bone grafts, extraction surgery, or additional imaging, the costs will go up. The final cost of dental implant treatment will hinge on a number of factors, but your own dentist can probably give you an estimate after a consultation and a brief dental examination.
IS DENTAL IMPLANT TREATMENT PAINFUL?
Most patients report little or no little discomfort after dental implant treatment. Local anesthesia is typically used for the procedure, and mild soreness immediately after the procedure is typically treated with over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen. After the procedure, however, dental implants require consistent care and maintenance – brushing, flossing, using antibacterial mouthwash, and making regular visits for check-ups.
Prospective dental implant patients will want to determine if their insurance plan covers implants. Some health insurance plans cover the surgery costs. If not, your family dentist may be able to offer or recommend alternative payment plans or payment options. Don’t forget that your dentist is there to answer your questions and address your concerns, so do not hesitate to speak up.
If you have recently lost a tooth – or more than one – from tooth decay, periodontal disease, or a serious injury, you may be considering dental implants. While losing a tooth can be painful both physically and emotionally, the pain doesn’t have to last. A number of options are available to you, and dental implants are only one of those options. A consultation with your family dentist can help you to determine the option that really is best for you.