Dental implants fall into the category of restorative dentistry. They’re a means of replacing a missing a tooth that is reliable, predictable, long-lasting and effective. Dental implants are also very versatile, allowing multiple restoration methods using one or more implants for great results.
What are dental implants?
A dental implant is a screw that’s inserted into the jaw where a tooth root used to be. Typically this screw is made out of titanium, although other materials can be used as well. The implant acts as a replacement for the tooth root, on which a prosthetic can be attached to replace the rest of the tooth above the gum line.
A dental implant restoration typically comprises of three components: the implant itself, an “abutment” — a small device that is inserted into the implant on which restorations are attached — and finally, the restoration.
What is the dental implant process?
Getting a dental implant requires a few steps.
• Planning the implant placement. Using sophisticated computer mapping software, your dentist or oral surgeon will plan the best positioning for the dental implant. This step is crucial to avoid nerves and allow the strongest positioning for the implant.
• Removing the original tooth. Before the implant can go in, the damaged or diseased tooth being replaced needs to go. This is either done long before the implant is even considered, or done as part of the overall procedure.
• Inserting the implant. Dental implants are inserted as a surgical procedure, which can be done under local anaesthetic. The gum is opened, the implant is inserted, and the gum is sutured back on top.
• Osseointegration. This is the process of the bone fusing around the implant to hold it in place. This can take anywhere from several weeks to several months, depending on the individual.
• Attaching the prosthetic. Once the implant has integrated with the jawbone, the abutment is placed into the implant and the prosthetic is attached to the abutment.
Replacing multiple teeth with dental implants
A single implant with a dental crown can replace a single tooth. Doing this for many teeth, particularly if they’re next to each other, would be prohibitively time-consuming and expensive. Luckily, it’s possible to replace multiple teeth using one to four implants.
The most common method is to use an implant-supported dental bridge. A dental bridge is a row of dental crowns fused together to replace two or more adjacent teeth. One or two implants can be used to replace multiple teeth in a row.
Another option is called “all-on-four”, which allows an entire arch of teeth to be supported on as few as four dental implants.
Who can get dental implants?
Patients who are generally healthy, don’t smoke, and have otherwise good oral health are ideal candidates. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems, may affect your candidacy. Your dentist will go over this in-depth during a consultation.