Severely damaged or missing teeth can be repaired in a number of ways. Bridges and partial dentures are a common solution, though they do not provide permanent results. As a longer-term treatment, implants can be used to replace missing roots and support replacement teeth. Though artificial, these replacement teeth are much more comfortable than bridges or dentures, and they also look and feel like natural teeth.
In essence, a dental implant has two parts. First, there is an artificial root, usually constructed of titanium metal that is implanted into the jawbone as a replacement for the damaged natural root. Secondly, an artificial tooth is attached to the implant which holds the tooth in place. These procedures are usually referred by your dentist to a periodontist or oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Specialists who work with crowns, bridges, and dentures are known as prosthodontists.
Dental implants are generally recommended to patients who are in good general health and also have healthy gums and jaw bones. In order for implants to be placed effectively, there must be enough bone in the jaw to support the implant. In cases where patient’s jaw bones have shrunken or have not developed properly, bone grafts may be required. During a bone graft, new bone is added to the jaw bone so that there is enough support for a dental implant. Not all patients are suitable for dental implants or bone grafts, so you need to consult your dentist.
The procedure for placing dental implants is fairly straightforward. In early consultations with your dentist or periodontist, your mouth will be carefully examined and x-rays will be taken of your head, jaw, and teeth. Together with your dentist or specialist, you can decide whether implants are the best treatment and which teeth will need to be replaced.
Dental implant surgery usually involves two stages. In stage one, implants will be placed in your jaw bone below the gum tissue. Then, gum tissue is stitched into place and allowed to heal. During this process, bone will grow around the implant so it is held firmly in place. In stage two of surgery, your gum tissue is healed and your dentist or specialist attaches an abutment to the new implants. This abutment allows the replacement tooth to be attached to the implant. In some cases, both stages of dental implant surgery will be completed in one visit. Artificial replacement teeth are custom made to fit your mouth and bite, so it may take several visits before your replacement tooth is fitted properly.
As dental implants are designed to look, feel, and act just as natural teeth, they will require similar care. Regular brushing and flossing is an important part of maintaining your new implants, but you will also want to have regular dental checkups to make sure the implants are fixed properly and your bite is correct.