Dental implants have become a popular alternative to dentures and bridges. They look and feel just like real teeth as the implant literally replaces the root of a lost tooth or teeth. Unfortunately, the procedure which is typically done in multiple phases often lasts for months but the healing process accounts for most of that time. The majority of people who underwent the procedure, however, agree that it is worth to wait due to esthetic and practical advantages implants offer over dentures and bridges.
Before the actual surgery during which the implant is inserted into the jawbone, the dentist performs a dental exam to evaluate the patient’s gum health and the strength of jawbone that will support the implant. If the exam confirms satisfactory oral health and if jawbone is strong enough, the patient is scheduled for a surgery. But if dental exam reveals any potential risk factors that could jeopardize the success of the procedure or the patient’s health, the patient is not scheduled for surgery until all risk factors are eliminated. Inadequate bone structure or strength is one of such factors which requires prior treatment, typically with transplantation of a piece of bone to the jawbone (bone grafting). The needed bone tissue is usually taken from the hip.
Placement of dental implant usually takes place in at least three stages. During the first stage, a titanium post is inserted into the jawbone. The gum is cut open and a hole is drilled into jawbone for the implant. Although its sounds terrifying, most people who underwent the procedure say that it is not as bad as it may appear at a first glance and that it feels almost like having a tooth extraction. The insertion of the titanium post into the jawbone is, of course, done under a local anesthesia.
The first stage of dental implant surgery is followed by three to six months of waiting for the jawbone to grow over the titanium post that will serve as a replacement of the lost tooth’s root. When the implant is fused with the jawbone, the dentist opens the gum to expose the titanium post and attaches the so-called implant abutment to the inserted post. However, it is also possible to attach the abutment to the post during the insertion of the latter but in this case, the abutment is visible in the mouth while waiting for the jawbone to heal. Which option to choose is completely up to the patient’s personal preferences although many people prefer to have it placed later because it takes only about two weeks for the gums to heal after the procedure.
About two weeks after insertion of the abutment, the dentist makes an impression of the patient’s mouth and other teeth in order to make as realistic artificial tooth (crown) as possible. The crown is screwed or cemented to the abutment only when the titanium post and jawbone are perfectly fused.
Most dental implant surgeries are successful. In fact, the success rate is about 98 percent. It is crucial, however, to follow the dentist’s instructions and practice good oral hygiene.