What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth that a dentist surgically places into your jaw bone to support a tooth replacement, which might be dentures, a dental bridge or a dental crown.
A dental implant and a tooth replacement paired together look and act very similar to a natural tooth.
There are two components to a dental implant: a titanium rod that's placed into the jaw bone and functions like the tooth root, and an abutment that screws into the rod. The abutment ultimately supports the artificial tooth replacement.
The Dental Implant Procedure
While sometimes it's possible to place dental implants on the same day teeth are extracted, it typically takes three to six months of healing before the implant can be placed. Your dentist can likely give you a more specific timeline based on your needs and treatment plan.
Usually, the procedure will take two appointments to complete. At the first visit, the dentist will surgically plant the titanium rod into your jaw bone beneath the gum tissue to start the procedure, before stitching the gum tissue back into place.
The implant will bond with the bone and attach to the gum as the tissue heals. The healing process may take up to several month.
Once the gum tissue has healed, the dentist will attach the abutment to the rod during your second appointment. Finally, the tooth replacement will be placed on the abutment.
The result of this procedure will be an artificial tooth that looks and functions similar to a natural tooth.
In cases where there might not be enough jaw bone volume to support an implant, bone graft surgery may be required so implants can be placed later.
Many patients wonder if the dental implant procedure will be painful. While every patient has a different pain threshold, most are unlikely to experience major discomfort during and after the operation. You'll have the opportunity to discuss anesthesia options with your dentist and plan your procedure based on your preferences.
Typically, dental implant placement is completed using local anesthesia.
Why use a dental implant?
If you're missing one or more teeth, dental implants can be used to address a number of issues and protect your oral health.
By using a dental implant and a tooth replacement such as a dental bridge, dental crown or dentures, you can prevent surrounding teeth from shifting, restore any jaw pain or bite issues, and even improve chewing, speech and digestion. Having this procedure can also help avoid the appearance of a 'sunken face' that can often occur with missing teeth.
Wondering whether you'll be able to chew normally? Typically, chewing has been shown to improve after treatment. After a brief period of adapting to your new implants, chewing efficiency for most patients is similar to that of natural teeth.
How long will my dental implant last?
When cared for properly, a dental implant can last many years. It will be essential to practice proper at-home oral care, including brushing and flossing, and to schedule a regular dental exam and cleaning with your dentist. Other factors that can impact the longevity of dental implants include nutrition, genetics, or the development of any dental diseases.