Dental Implants: What You Need to Know

A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is placed into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge. Dental implants may be an option for people who have lost a tooth (or teeth) due to periodontal disease, an injury, or some other reason.

What are the advantages of an implant over a bridge?

A dental implant provides several advantages over other tooth replacement options.
In addition to looking and functioning like a natural tooth, a dental implant replaces a tooth or teeth without sacrificing the health of neighboring teeth. The other common treatment for the loss of a single tooth, a tooth-supported fixed bridge, requires that adjacent teeth be ground down to support the cemented bridge.

Because a dental implant will replace your tooth root, the bone is better preserved.
With a bridge, some of the bone that previously surrounded the tooth begins to deteriorate.
Dental implants integrate with your jawbone, helping to keep the bone healthy and intact.

In the long term, a single implant can be more esthetic and easier to keep clean than a bridge. Gums can recede around a bridge, leaving a visible defect when the metal base or collar of the bridge becomes exposed.
Deterioting bone beneath the bridge can lead to an unattractive smile.
Plus, the cement holding the bridge in place can wash out, allowing bacteria to decay the teeth that anchor the bridge.

How will the implant be placed?

First, the implant, which looks like a screw or cylinder, is placed into your jaw.
Over the next two to six months, the implant and the bone are allowed to bond together to form an anchor for your artificial tooth. During this time, a temporary tooth replacement option can be worn over the implant site for aesthetic purposes.

Implant inserted in site of lost tooth

Often, a second step of the procedure is necessary to uncover the implant and attach an extension. This temporary healing cap completes the foundation on which your new tooth will be placed. Your gums will be allowed to heal for a couple of weeks following this procedure.

There are some implant systems (one-stage) that do not require this second step.
These systems use an implant which already has the extension piece attached. Your dental professional will advise you on which system is best for you.

Natural-looking replacement tooth Is attached to implant

Finally, a replacement tooth called a crown will be created for you and attached to a small metal post, called an abutment. After a short time, you will experience restored confidence in your smile, along with your ability to chew and speak. In fact, dental implants are so natural-looking and feeling, you may forget you ever lost a tooth.

Every case is different, and some of these steps can be combined when conditions permit. Your dental professional will work with you to determine the best treatment plan.

What can I expect after I receive a dental implant?

As you know, your own teeth require conscientious at-home oral care and regular dental visits. Dental implants are like your own teeth and will require the same care. In order to keep your implant clean and plaque-free, proper care still applies:

  • Brushing twice a day for at least two minutes.
  • Flossing daily.
  • Visiting your dentist regularly.

After treatment, your dentist will work closely with you to develop the best care plan for you. Periodic follow-up visits will be scheduled to monitor your implant, teeth and gums to make sure they stay healthy.