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What are dental implants & how do they work?

When teeth are missing, it not only leaves a gap in the mouth, but it can create other oral problems. When someone has missing teeth, the alignment of their teeth and facial features, as well as their capabilities to chew and speak, can be hindered. By getting a tooth implant, the structure of the jaw can be reinforced, and the comfort and ability of normal tasks will be improved. There are several options to combat a missing tooth but it is important to be knowledgeable on the subject to confirm that implants are the best solution for you. The most asked questions from patients will be answered in this article including, “What are dental implants?”, “How do dental implants work?”, and “What type of tooth implant is best?”

What are dental implants used for?

There can be several situations when a patient could consider artificial teeth – for both restorative and cosmetic reasons. Replacement teeth can be used for a missing tooth, several teeth, and even all teeth. Tooth replacement is a great option for those that want something long-term and durable. The goal of dental implants is to be as natural looking as possible while restoring the patient’s oral health. As previously mentioned, missing teeth can affect more than your appearance. Implants in the jawbone are the closest option to a natural tooth and the foundation created by an implant prevents bone loss while simultaneously maintaining your facial features. Dental implants can also be used to eliminate the need for dentures while improving the appearance, dental health, and speech of a patient.

The structure of an implant

Much different from dentures, a tooth implant is surgically fixed into the jaw and is treated as a real tooth. This section will break down the basic structure of a dental implant and answer the question: what are dental implants? There are three parts that make up a typical dental implant: base, connector, and crown. The base is essentially a screw that gets anchored into the jawbone. This acts as the root of a tooth and allows for a strong foundation that is independent of the surrounding teeth. The connector, or abutment, is used to join the crown and the base. The crown is the part that looks like the tooth. Crowns are made with special materials, like ceramic, and are designed to look like a natural tooth.

What to expect

Patients often get confused as this process does not happen overnight. So how do dental implants work? This process begins with a consultation with an oral surgeon where the patient will be informed of the treatment plan and what is to be expected. The surgeon will examine the area to assess its current state and will be able to determine what your dental implant needs are. This procedure normally utilizes sedatives in order to comfortably remove any remnants of the damaged tooth, see the status of the jawbone or need for more bone, and if necessary, acquires a bone graft to design and support the implant. Once the bone is stable, anywhere from two to six months, the titanium post of the tooth implant is inserted into the jawbone where the tooth is missing. While this part of the process heals, the implant integrates with the bone which is called osseointegration. When healed, the connector is attached to the base followed by the crown being attached to the connector. The crown is created based on an impression of your mouth and then is colored accurately to match the other natural teeth. This procedure has a success rate of about 98% and results in very little discomfort. After the surgery, the prosthetic should be treated like a normal tooth – brushing, flossing, routine checkups, etc.

Types of implants and materials

Now that you know how dental implants work and what they are, it is important to note that there are two different types of tooth implants available. Subperiosteal implants are the least common of the two implants. This type of implant sits under the gums but not in the jawbone. It is a good option for patients who do not have healthy enough gum tissue or jawbone to support an endosteal implant. Through healing, the implant attaches to the jawbone where the prosthetic teeth are then attached to the posts that protrude out of the gums. Endosteal implants are the most common and have been the type of implant mentioned in this post. These implants are surgically inserted into the jawbone where the connector and crown are attached after healing. Both types of implants can be done on an individual tooth or grouped on a dental bridge for multiple teeth. If a patient’s jawbone is not up to the standards needed for a dental implant, techniques like bone augmentation, ridge expansion, or a sinus lift can be used to restore the foundation.

The human body is good at rejecting foreign objects within itself which makes it difficult to find proper surgical materials. It is important for materials entering the body to be biocompatible so the procedure has a higher chance of success. Titanium is the most common material for the post of implants (the next most common being zirconia) as they allow for a smooth integration without triggering the body’s rejection mode. Although there are several materials crowns can be made from, most are crafted from ceramic to ensure a natural looking tooth and durability throughout normal activities like eating.

Most importantly, you will want to be sure your oral surgeon is choosing methods and materials that are best for your needs. One way to ensure this is to make sure you are going to a dentist and surgeon you trust. Feel free to ask what type of material they are using, why they are using it, and what type of implant they think is best for your oral health. The tooth implant procedure will be less stressful if you are sure your surgeon has your best interest in mind, as well as confidence in their abilities, materials, and methods. After reading this article you should have a good basis on how dental implants work and when they are right for you, use this information to talk to your dentist about what oral care options are best for your missing teeth.

Interested in scheduling a free consultation to see if a dental implant is right for you? Contact your nearest Fortson Dentistry location to schedule an appointment with a doctor.